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Full text of "North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame 2010 inductees : W.J. Cash, Allan Gurganus, Robert Morgan, Walter Hines Page, Samm-Art Williams"

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2010 Induction Ceremony 
October 17, 2010 




Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities 
Southern Pines, North Carolina 



THE LIBRARY OF THE 
UNIVERSITY OF 
NORTH CAROLINA 
AT CHAPEL HILL 




THE COLLECTION OF 
NORTH CAROLINIAN A 

PRESENTED BY 

North Carolina Writers' Network 



Cp806 
N87Lh 
2010 



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20103ufactee& 



W. J. Cash 
Allan Gurganus 
Robert Morgan 
Walter Hines Page 
Samm-Art Williams 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 
North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame Sponsors 

The North Carolina Center for the Book 
at the State Library of North Carolina 
The North Carolina Collection 
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library 
The North Carolina Humanities Council 
The North Carolina Writers' Network 
The Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities 

With support for the Induction Ceremony from: 

The News 8c Observer 
The Pilot 
The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines 
Neal Hutcheson and Eric Hodge, DVD Production 
The North Carolina Arts Council 
The North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill Library 
The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources 
The North Caroliniana Society, Inc. 
The Paul Green Foundation 
The Women of Weymouth 
Thousands O' Prints, Greensboro 

Selection Committee 

James W. Clark Jr., Chair 
Margaret Bauer Faye Dasen 

Rebecca Godwin Jan Hensley 

Linda Hobson Rob Neufeld 

Danny e Romine Powell 

The publisher gratefully acknowledges die use of photographs and selections 
of work by the 2010 North Carolina Literary' Hall of Fame inductees. 

Editor: Marsha Warren 
Cover Art: Evalynn Halsey 

Layout and Production: North Carolina Center for the Book 
Biographies: John Blythe 
Bibliographies: Robert Anthony 

Copyright ©2010 by the North Carolina Writers' Network 



The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame is a program of 
The North Carolina Writers' Network 



INDUCTION CEREMONY 

Sunday, October 17, 2010 

Welcome 

Mabel Barker 
President, Friends of Weymouth 

J. Peder Zane 
Master of Ceremonies 

Deputy Secretary Melanie R. Soles 
North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources 

Induction 

W. J. Cash 

Presented by Ed Williams" 
Induction accepted by Paul Escott 

Walter Hines Page 

Presented by Shippen Page 
Reading by Stephen E. Smith 

Allan Gurganus 

Presented by Jane Holding 

Robert Morgan 

Presented by Joe Flora 

Samm-Art Williams 

Presented Z>k Asabi (Stephanie Howard) 

Recognition of Award's Artist 

Marsha Warren 
Executive Director, Paul Green Foundation 

Concluding Remarks 

Reception to follow 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/northcarolinalit2010 



FOREWORD 



Weymouth, Writers and Words 

It is a sturdy house, well over 100 years old now and still rising among 
glossy magnolias and tall pines which lean into the Carolina wind. Its 
elegance is understated, with none of the ostentation one might expect of a 
twenty-room house. Weymouth served the Boyd family well for many years; 
since 1977 its service has expanded beyond family to community, its 
mission marked by the good taste which distinguishes its architectural 
design. 

During the 1890s, James Boyd, a steel and railroad magnate, purchased 
1,200 acres in Southern Pines and built a home. He christened this new 
estate "Weymouth, " after a town he had visited in England. Set amidst a 
magnificent stand of virgin long-leaf pines, it served as a country manor 
where his grandson and namesake, James, often came as a boy to repair frail 
health and explore the imposing pine forest and surrounding countryside. 

Later young James went to Princeton and then on to Cambridge to 
earn a master's degree. Rejected by the National Guard for health reasons, 
James went to work for Doubleday Page Company in New York in 1916. 
The following year he and his new bride, the former Katharine Lamont, 
spent their honeymoon in the house, but by spring 1918 he did receive a 
commission and went to serve in the Army Ambulance Service in Italy until 
1919 when he was discharged because of his health. Returning to 
Weymouth, which by now he co-owned with his brother, Jackson, he and 
Katharine began redesigning the house. They moved part of the original 
house across Connecticut Avenue to become part of Jackson's new home, 
now known as the Campbell House. To the remaining structure, they 
added a second story and two wings, enlarging the Georgian-style house to 
9,000 square feet. 

James Boyd, now 34 years old, left the management of the family 
business to his brother while he pursued the dream which had begun when 
he was editor of his high school newspaper: to become a writer. Boyd's 
biographer, David Whisnant, observes that Boyd chose to live in Southern 
Pines because this site "seemed to offer the best conditions for beginning [a 
literary career] — a reasonable physical comfort, freedom from distractions, 
and a mild climate... and an opportunity to affirm the tangible values of 
American life." One of the earliest visitors to the newly-enlarged home was 
British novelist and playwright John Galsworthy, who, after reading Boyd's 
stories, encouraged him to try a novel, then, on a trip to New York, urged 
publishers to "keep an eye on James Boyd." In 1925, Scribner's published 
Boyd's first novel, Drums. It won immediate attention, not only for its 



story but for its realism — the result of Boyd's extensive and meticulous 
research. 

Boyd went on to write more novels, a number of short stories and a 
collection of poetry. In 1941, he expanded his career by purchasing and 
editing the Southern Pines Pilot. Meanwhile, his home became a welcome 
retreat for many of the best writers of the day: Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott 
Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Laurence Stallings, Sherwood Anderson, and 
Paul Green, as well as his editor, the legendary Maxwell Perkins, and his 
illustrator, N.C. Wyeth. His daughter, Nancy Sokoloff, once recalled that 
"During my father's lifetime there were no 'writers' colonies.' Our living 
room and that of Paul and Elizabeth Green served as settings for serious 
work and conversations about Southern writing and its future." 

The serious conversations went beyond literature. During World War 
II, Boyd organized and served as the National Chairman of the Free 
Company of Players, a group of writers who were concerned that 
constitutional rights might be compromised during the frenzy of wartime. 
Among the writers joining him in writing plays for broadcast over national 
radio were Orson Welles, Paul Green, Archibald MacLeish, and Stephen 
Vincent Benet. 

In 1944, after James Boyd's untimely death, Katharine continued living 
at Weymouth and publishing The Pilot. She and her children donated 400 
pine-filled acres to the state for development into the Weymouth Woods 
Nature Preserve. When she died in 1974, she left the house, remaining land 
and forest to Sandhills Community College. But, unable to efficiently use 
the property, the College put it on the market. Fearful that this treasure 
would be demolished by developers, two friends of the Boyds undertook 
the task of saving it. Elizabeth Stevenson (Buffie) Ives organized Friends of 
Weymouth; Sam Ragan, then publisher and editor of The Pilot, rallied 
support from the State of North Carolina, the Nature Conservancy, the 
Sierra Club, the North Carolina Writers' Conference, and the North 
Carolina Poetry Society. The first person Ragan approached, playwright 
Paul Green, made the first donation: $1,000. Later, Moore County resident 
Bob Drummond provided a major boost with an initial contribution of 
$20,000 and a later donation of an equal amount. 

On February 15, 1977, Friends of Weymouth, Inc. was incorporated 
and the house, surrounded by twenty-two acres, has flourished as a full- 
fledged cultural center ever since. College groups and various arts groups 
hold meetings and retreats here. The great room and back lawn host 
concerts by chamber music groups and such notables as Doc Watson and 
lectures by speakers as varied as social critic Tom Wolfe and sociologist John 
Shelton Reed. There have also been frequent readings by North Carolina 
writers such as Clyde Edgerton, Kaye Gibbons and Shelby Stephenson, as 
well as an annual Sam Ragan Poetry Festival the 2nd Saturday in March. 



2 



In addition to formal programs, Weymouth has hosted one of former 
North Carolina Poet Laureate Sam Ragan's favorite projects: residencies 
offering writers, artists and composers stays of up to two weeks to pursue 
their art in James Boyd's hospitable home. Poet and novelist Guy Owen 
was the first writer-in-residence, and, just a few months before his death in 
1981, he also made his last public reading at Weymouth. Since 1979, 
hundreds of writers and artists have held residencies here. Many testify that 
their art has flourished on this site; some even credit the hovering spirit of 
James Boyd and perhaps those of his many literary guests with providing 
additional creative impetus. 

It is fitting that Weymouth, where James Boyd and hundreds of other 
writers have found congenial conditions for their work, is the site of the 
North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. It is also fitting that the space set 
aside for this distinction is Boyd's upstairs study, where James did his own 
writing, often by dictating to a stenographer as he paced back and forth, 
taking on the voices of his characters. Perhaps the spirits of those who are 
honored here will join the chorus of literary masters whose influence echoes 
through the halls and across the grounds of Weymouth. 

Sally Buckner 

Raleigh, North Carolina 



3 



4 



INTRODUCTION 



And down die centuries that wait ahead there'll be some whisper of our name, some 
mention and devotion to the dream that brought us here. 

- The Lost CoJonvby Paul Green 

From its earliest days, North Carolina has been blessed with the "mention 
and devotion" of a great host of writers living and working in the state. A rich 
literary heritage is a legacy cherished by all North Carolinians. 

The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame is established as a perpetual 
opportunity to remember, honor and celebrate that heritage. By marking the 
contribution of its literary giants of every generation, it will support and 
encourage the further flourishing of excellent literature in the state. 

The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame was the dream of a generation 
of the state's most dedicated cultural leaders, mobilized by Sam Ragan, former 
poet laureate of North Carolina. It was authorized by a Joint Resolution of the 
General Assembly on July 23, 1993, then formally established by a grant from 
the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources to the North Carolina Writers' 
Network, a literary organization serving writers and readers across the state 
since 1985. 

The Hall of Fame is physically located in a notable shrine of North 
Carolina writing. The Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities in 
Southern Pines is the former home and workplace of novelist James Boyd and 
his wife Katharine, a distinguished journalist and patron of the arts. The large 
room where plaques, pictures, books and other memorabilia of the state's 
honored writers are displayed was Boyd's workroom. 

Members of the Hall of Fame are selected by a committee of writers. The 
goal is to choose widely and inclusively from the great parade of novelists, 
poets, short story writers, playwrights, journalists and storytellers of all sorts 
who have called themselves North Carolinians. While the first year honored 
only those from the past, the Hall of Fame now joins other notable cultural 
award programs in honoring living writers. 

In the 1920s, an editor visiting North Carolina marveled at the literary 
liveliness of the place where, she said, writers flourished in "an atmosphere of 
plain living and high thinking that I never experienced before." 

In the spirit of those who over the centuries have graced North Carolina 
with a literature of such quality, beauty and power, the North Carolina Literary 
Hall of Fame proudly honors writers who have achieved enduring stature in 
their mention and devotion to their art and to the state. 

Roy Parker, Jr. 

Fayetteville, North Carolina 



5 



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Inductee Awards by North Carolina Artists 
2010 Artist 

Jim Wallace has been a wood worker and co-owner of New Light Wood 
Works for 34 years. His work has been shown at numerous galleries and 
craft shows throughout the area, including the North Carolina Museum of 
Art, the North Carolina Museum of History, Green Hill Center for North 
Carolina Art, Alamance County Arts Council, and Craft House. He was a 
member and officer of Chinaberry Craft Co-op in Chapel Hill and is a past 
member and officer of Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild. He has 
exhibited at the American Crafts Council's Winter Market and his work has 
appeared in American Craft magazine . Jim has been teaching woodturning 
at Alamance Community College and at the Craft Center at North Carolina 
State University for over 25 years. 

Featured Artists 

1996 Katherine Kubel. Chapel Hill graphic designer. Gold wooden frame 
with multiple openings for pictures and text. 

1997 Sally Prang. Chapel Hill ceramic artist. Brightly colored ceramic 
vase mounted on black stand. 



1998 Cathy Kiffhey. Chapel Hill ceramic artist. Ceramic wall plaque with 
white magnolia and green leaves. 

2000 Tom Spleth. Raleigh potter and ceramist. Garden-tile vertical box 
sculptures in N.C. colors for the sea, pines and clay. 

2002 Ben Owen, III. Seagrove potter. Vases with signature glazes of 
vibrant reds, jade greens and traditional earth tones. 

2004 Jeanette Sheehan. Southern Pines visual artist. Print of original 
water color painting of Weymouth. 

2006 Janet Resnik. Chapel Hill potter. Large oval ceramic tray with 
Weymouth house and gardens motif. 

2008 Carolyn Allen. Graham stained glass designer. Stained glass with 
piece featuring Weymouth's water lily pond design. 

2010 Jim Wallace. Wake Forest wood turner. One-of-a kind hand-turned 
bowls highlighting the unique and various wood grains. 



6 



Inductees 1996-2010 



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Manly Wade Wellman, 1996 


Harriet Ann Jacobs, 1997 


Tom Wicker, 2004 


Randall Jarrell, 1996 


Jonathan Williams, 1998 


Gerald Johnson, 1996 


Samm- Art Williams, 2010 


Jaems McGirt, 2004 


Thomas Wolfe, 1996 


John Charles McNeill, 1998 





7 



8 



W. J. Cash 
1900 - 1941 

One biographer of W.J. Cash has 
described The Mind of the South as "the fruit 
of a lifetime's search by a sensitive soul who 
strove to 'understand' his native South." 
Indeed in his short life, the writer and 
journalist expended much ink taking on the 
oft-accepted and, to his mind, much 
romanticized history of the South. Whether as 
an editorialist for his college newspaper, a 
columnist for the Charlotte News or an essayist for the American Mercury, 
Cash thrilled in skewering hypocrisy and delighted in turning a good 
phrase. Southern politicians, bloviated writers and even European despots 
were all fair game for his swift pen. But Cash's bold battles in print belied a 
much greater struggle within his own mind and body. And, in time, those 
internal wars took a toll - the writer's death at 41 shrouded in the same 
controversy he relished in life. 

Wilbur Joseph Cash was born on May 2, 1900 in Gaffney, South 
Carolina - a town dotted with textile mills. Cash's father, John, ran the 
company store - a position that placed the Cash family one rung above mill 
workers on the town's social ladder and prompted Wilbur's parents to 
discourage play with the factory hands' children. Even without his parents' 
admonishment, the young Cash likely would have kept to himself. Shy, 
retiring and awkward, the child preferred reading to roughhousing with 
other boys. Recounting his youth in later years, Cash wrote, "I learned to 
read very early, and it speedily developed into a passion, one which I have 
never lost. I read tons of trash, but all that was printed was grist to my mill, 
and so by the early 'teens I had got through much that was excellent and 
still more that was astounding pabulum for a child." Bespectacled at a 
young age (some said he had ruined his eyes from reading too much) and 
prone to squinting, Cash earned the nickname Sleepy. The moniker would 
stick with him into adulthood. 

At 13 Cash moved with his family to Boiling Springs, N.C., the small 
Cleveland County community in which his mother had grown up. While 
John Cash helped his father-in-law manage a general store, Wilbur attended 
Boiling Springs High School. The private Baptist high school placed heavy 
emphasis on Bible study and required students to attend chapel daily. In 
later years Cash would report that he paid little mind to school and spent 
most of his time pursuing girls. But, in truth, he was a good student. He 
excelled at debating and served as an officer in the literary society. 




9 



Cash's high school graduation in April 1917 coincided with entrance of 
the United States into World War I. The young graduate sought to join the 
Navy. But poor eyesight prevented him doing so. Instead Cash busied 
himself with a variety of odd jobs, including work as a carpenter' helper and 
clerk at an Army camp near Spartanburg, S.C. and as a shipyard helper up 
and down the East Coast. Cash's work outdoors during winter 1917-18 
exposed him to frostbite, a condition that left his eyelids slightly, but 
permanently, narrowed and further reinforced his nickname Sleepy. 

Eventually Cash was accepted into the Students' Army Training Corps, 
a nationwide program established to train college and trade school students 
in skills deemed necessary for the war effort. For Cash (at least for his 
father) the program meant Army-paid tuition to Wofford College, a small 
Methodist school in South Carolina. Cash was not keen to attend college, 
especially at Wofford, which he viewed as too close to home and too tied to 
religion. Consequently, after a year in South Carolina, he transferred to 
Valparaiso College in Indiana. But Cash's time in the Midwest was short- 
lived. He chose not to return to Valparaiso at the completion of the 
Christmas break in 1918. The Midwest winter had proved too cold for his 
Tar Heel blood. 

In fall 1918 Cash enrolled at Wake Forest College. Like Wofford the 
school had a religious affiliation, in this case Baptist. But for Cash, Wake 
Forest's proximity to Raleigh (the school didn't move to Winston-Salem 
until 1956) made campus life more bearable. He and his friends often 
slipped off to the capital city for beers, burlesque shows and to court 
women from Meredith College. 

Cash took his first steps toward the writing life with a poem submitted 
to the Wake Forest Student, the college's literary magazine. His poem 
"Spring" celebrated the season and equated it with love and kisses. In time, 
Cash published six other poems and three short stories in the magazine. 
Cash biographer Bruce Clayton suggests that the short stories, one of which 
is set aboard a sailing vessel in the Congo, are strongly reminiscent of works 
by Joseph Conrad, an author Cash was deeply immersed in reading at the 
time. 

Cash also fell under the influence of another writer during his time at 
Wake Forest. He was a regular reader of essayist H. L. Mencken, whose 
writings about the South drew extreme reactions from natives of the region. 
Some loved Mencken. Others loathed him. Cash leaned toward the former 
reaction. In fact, he penned two columns for the Old Gold and Black, the 
Wake Forest student newspaper, in which he echoed the sentiments and the 
style of Mencken's expressed seminal essay "The Sahara of the Bozart." In a 
February 13, 1920 column, Cash wrote that the South was indeed barren of 
culture and the beaux arts. "And North Carolina comes near being the 
dreariest spot in the whole blank stretch," he added. "In all the long years 
of its history the State hasn't produced a half dozen writers who might, by 



10 



any sort of standard, be called worthwhile. Worse - it hasn't even raised up 
readers for books that others have written." His comments provoked a 
stream of dissenting letters to the paper - a response that sparked Cash to 
write a second column a week later in which he lambasted his fellow 
students for listing Tarzan and the Wild West Magazine as their favorite 
reading. 

Cash was in his final year at Wake Forest when he wrote his Mencken- 
esque column and, by that time, he had become the associate editor of the 
Old Gold and Black. His responsibilities included writing and editing the 
editorial page. As an editorial writer, Cash on several occasions came to the 
defense of Wake Forest president and biologist William Louis Poteat. The 
college president had come under fire from Baptist fundamentalists for his 
evolutionist views. Pulling no punches, Cash suggested in one editorial that 
Poteat's critics were "a few self- anointed bigots." He wrote that they had 
been emboldened by "Willie J." Bryan, who "gets hot over the question of 
evolution on the ground that he knows quite positively that no one ever fed 
peanuts through the bars of a cage to his great-great-great grandpa." Cash 
concluded with an assault on the fundamentalist movement. "Conceived in 
the slime of ignorance," he wrote, "it seeks to thwart and retard the march 
of truth and knowledge by playing upon the fears and superstitions of the 
credulous and the willful blindness of the prejudiced. What strange 
instruments does his Satanic Majesty sometimes choose to carry out his 
work." 

After graduation from Wake Forest in 1922 Cash spent the ensuing few 
years balancing his desire to write with the need to make money. Seeking to 
please his father, he enrolled in law school at Wake Forest. But he quit after 
a year, later labeling law "the dullest of professions." Next he spent three 
years teaching, one year at a small -town college in Kentucky and two at a 
boys' school in Hendersonville, N.C. However, teaching did not suit him, 
either. He found his colleagues and students uninteresting and the pace of 
life in small towns tedious. Finally, in May 1925, Cash headed for Chicago 
where he sought work in journalism, first as a freelancer and then as a staffer 
on the Chicago Post. But the young journalist spent a mere six months in 
the Windy City before returning to North Carolina - likely driven home by 
the onset of winter in the Midwest. 

Upon returning to North Carolina in early 1926, Cash began work for 
the Charlotte News. He had first worked for the newspaper as a reporter in 
summer 1923, shortly after abandoning law school. But the job was only a 
temporary one and, at the end of the summer, he headed for Kentucky and 
his teaching position. 

As he bounced between jobs, Cash also tried his hand at fiction. He 
submitted short stories to Harper's and the American Mercury, a monthly 
magazine edited by Mencken. But neither publication accepted the pieces. 



11 



Cash also worked on several novels, ultimately abandoning them after he 
grew frustrated with his writing. 

By all accounts Cash enjoyed his job with the Charlotte News. The 
journalist, whom his colleagues called "Jack," took special pleasure in the 
intellectual sparring and teasing between staffers that was a frequent 
occurrence in the paper's newsroom. But in early 1927, hardly a year after 
joining the News, Cash retreated to his parent's home in Boiling Springs. 
He told them that he was too nervous, depressed and "neurasthenic" to do 
sustained work. 

Health problems had plagued Cash since high school, when he would 
occasionally experience choking spasms. At Wake Forest he wore his collar 
open because of a swollen goiter. Ultimately a doctor would attribute 
Cash's poor mental and physical health to hyperthyroidism. But Cash had 
yet to receive the diagnosis in 1927 when he returned to Boiling Springs for 
rest. At the time a doctor suggested that Cash's low feelings were due to a 
thiamine deficiency. In addition to rest, he prescribed distant travel - a 
move he suggested would allow Cash to forget about his problems. The 
remedy was common at the time and so Cash's parents, worried about their 
son, dutifully cobbled together money to send him to Europe. Cash spent 
several months traveling through France, England, Italy, Germany and 
Belgium, often making his way on foot or by bike so that he could save 
money. 

By November 1927 Cash was back in North Carolina and relaxed 
enough to return to the Charlotte News as an editorial writer and 
occasional book critic. In March 1928 he added to his portfolio a signed 
weekly column titled "The Moving Row." In his pieces Cash ranged over 
such topics as the definition of Americanism, writers' tendency to 
romanticize war, art and censorship, and the joys of Parisian life. The 
journalist had churned out just five "Moving Row" columns when his 
nervous symptoms reappeared. In early April he resigned from the News. 
He spent a brief period in the hospital in Charlotte and then, again, 
retreated to Boiling Springs. Through the summer he recuperated by 
splitting wood and taking long walks, sometimes roaming as much 25 miles 
in a day. 

Cash was sufficiently refreshed in fall 1928 to step in as managing 
editor for the newly created Cleveland Press, a semi -weekly newspaper 
based in Shelby. For all intents and purposes Cash was the main writer for 
the eight-page paper. He reported on local events, revived "The Moving 
Row" column and wrote the paper's editorials. Cash devoted significant 
editorial space to the 1928 Presidential campaign, which pitted Republican 
candidate Herbert Hoover against Democratic candidate Al Smith. The 
editor was unrelenting in his attacks on those spearheading anti-Smith 
campaigns in North Carolina, suggesting that religious bigotry lay behind 
opposition to the New York, Catholic Smith. Cash held up for particular 



12 



scorn North Carolina's Methodist and Baptist leaders as well as the Ku Klux 
Han. 

Cash also used the pages of the Cleveland Press to lay into Furnifold M. 
Simmons, the senior U.S. senator from North Carolina and another of the 
leaders of anti-Smith forces in the state. Simmons would also prove the 
subject of Cash's first essay for Mencken's the American Mercury. Using the 
extensive knowledge of Simmons gained during the 1928 campaign, Cash 
crafted a fiery attack on the Senator in early spring of 1929 and submitted it 
as an unsolicited manuscript to Mencken. To Cash's surprise, Mencken 
accepted it and agreed to publish the piece under the title "Jehovah of the 
Tar Heels" in the American Mercury 's July 1929 issue. 

Mencken asked Cash for more essays. Consequently, over the ensuing 
six years, the Tar Heel produced seven more pieces for the American 
Mercury. Cash's essays included a look at the Gastonia textile strikes ("The 
War in the South", published in February 1930), an examination of the 
social fabric of Charlotte ("Close View of a Calvinist Lhasa", published in 
April 1933) and a criticism of James B. "Buck" Duke and Duke University 
("Buck Duke's University", published in September 1933). 

Cash's American Mercury essay on the psychology of Southerners 
("The Mind of the South", published in October 1929) attracted the 
attention of the Mercury's publishers, Alfred and Blanche Knopf. They 
considered the topic worthy of a book and asked the writer to consider 
producing one. Cash agreed to the assignment and then struggled for more 
than a decade to complete it. He bounced between work on the manuscript 
and churning out columns for the Charlotte News, having returned to the 
paper's employ after about a year of editing the Cleveland Press. His pieces 
for the News offered a welcomed distraction from writing the book. He 
spent weeks at a time producing lists of ideas or drafting chapters, only to 
tear them up and start over. At times the Knopfs questioned whether they 
would ever see a final manuscript. But Cash continued to promise a book 
and ultimately he made good on his agreement, providing his publishers 
with a completed manuscript in July 1940. The Mind of the South was 
published in February 1941. 

The 400-page book explores the development of Southern thought and 
customs from the arrival of the first European settlers through the rise of 
industrialization in the early 20th century. Cash suggests that Southerners 
have held fairly uniform views across the four centuries. The Mind of the 
South challenges both the notion of the South as a land dominated by 
chivalrous and aristocratic "cavaliers" and as a region ruled by progressive 
thinkers and industrialists. The "man at the center" of the South is, in fact, 
the backcountry yeoman farmer, Cash writes. Although the South may 
include "cavaliers," industrialists and yeoman farmers, the writer suggests 
that rivalry between such classes is minimized by the "proto-Dorian bond," 
which unites whites in an effort to dominate blacks. 



13 



With its exploration of such themes as the cult of womanhood, 
violence, paternalism, demagoguery and xenophobia, The Mind of the 
South has stirred much interest over the decades since its publication. The 
book received mostly laudatory reviews at the time of its release. One of the 
rare dissenters was poet and Vanderbilt professor Donald Davidson, who 
criticized Cash for his hostility to religion and his comparison of the 
Southern mind to Fascism, Stalinism and Nazism. Although noted 
Southern historian C. Vann Woodward praised the book when it was first 
published, some 30 years later he revised his opinion. The Yale professor 
faulted Cash for often speaking too broadly about the South. The Tar Heel 
writer, Woodward wrote in 1969, failed to include mention of Kentucky's 
Bluegrass country, the Mississippi Delta, the Ozarks or the Gulf Coast. 
"Natives of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas will not find their states in the 
index of the Mind, nor will natives of many other states save North 
Carolina," he suggested. Woodward also skewered Cash for ignoring 
significant people and periods in Southern history, including Southern 
dissenters to slavery, Union sympathizers during the Civil War, Socialists at 
the turn of the 20th century, and peace activists during World War I. 

With an acclaimed book to vouch for his abilities, Cash applied for a 
Guggenheim fellowship to work on a novel. The writer had applied several 
times previously for the grant, which promised enough money to allow him 
to focus exclusively on his fiction writing. But none of his attempts had 
been successful. In spring 1941 his luck changed and he was awarded a 
fellowship. Cash chose to head for Mexico City with his new bride Mary. 
He planned to write a novel about the rise of a wealthy cotton mill family in 
the piedmont. 

On their way to Mexico, the Cashes stopped off in Austin, Texas, 
where Cash delivered the commencement address at the University of 
Texas. In his speech "The South in a Changing World," the Tar Heel 
sounded the alarm about the rise of totalitarianism, particularly in Europe. 
During the 1930s Cash had penned numerous columns for the Charlotte 
News decrying the actions of Mussolini and Hitler. At times the writer 
seemed unnaturally fixated on Hitler, launching into violent tirades against 
the Nazis when meeting friends on the street. By some accounts Cash's 
reaction to Hitler grew stronger after a night of drinking, an increasingly 
common occurrence by the late 1930s. 

The Cashes arrived in Mexico City in early June 1941. Both were 
fatigued from travel and nauseated from the heat and high altitude. As the 
couple settled in to their new home, Cash's mental and physical health 
continued to decline. On June 30th he became obsessed with delusions that 
Nazi agents were plotting his death in revenge for his anti-Hitler editorials. 
The next day he fled his apartment and took a room at a Mexico City hotel. 
Cash was found dead that night, hanging by a necktie from the bathroom 
door. 



14 



To this day the cause of the Tar Heel writer's death remains unclear. 
No evidence of Nazi agents was ever found. Mourners at Cash's memorial 
service in Shelby were told he died of a brain tumor, but an autopsy failed 
to reveal such. The likely explanation for Cash's death is suicide. But 
whether the writer was spurred to take his own life as a result of depression, 
heavy drinking, hyperthyroidism or some other medical condition cannot 
be known. What is known is best described by Cash biographer Joseph L. 
Morrison: 

He was a truth seeker, this W. J. Cash, whose too-short life 
yielded one fine book as its only monument. Thoughtful 
men will continue to honor him in the realization that, like 
most truth-seekers, W. J. Cash gathered his crumbs and 
grains of truth at the cost of his bitter toil and agony. 



"The Making of the Southern World to Come" 

from The Mind of the South. New York: Alfred A. Knopf] Inc., 1941. 

... It is far easier, I know, to criticize the failure of the South to face 
and solve its problems than it is to solve them. Solution is difficult and, for 
all I know, may be impossible in some cases. But it is clear at least that there 
is no chance of solving them until there is a leadership which is willing to 
face them fully and in all their implications, to arouse the people to them, 
and to try to evolve a comprehensive and adequate means for coping with 
them. It is the absence of that leadership, and ultimately the failure of any 
mood of realism, the preference for easy complacency, that I have sought to 
emphasize here. 

• 24 • 

This analysis might be carried much farther. But the book is already too 
long, and so I think I shall leave it at this. The basic picture of the South is 
here, I believe. And it was that I started out to set down. 

Proud, brave, honorable by its lights, courteous, personally generous, 
loyal, swift to act, often too swift, but signally effective, sometimes terrible, 
in its action — such was the South at its best. And such at its best it remains 
today, despite the great falling away in some of its virtues. Violence, 
intolerance, aversion and suspicion toward new ideas, an incapacity for 
analysis, an inclination to act from feeling rather than from thought, an 
exaggerated individualism and a too narrow concept of social responsibility, 
attachment to fictions and false values, above all too great attachment to 
racial values and a tendency to justify cruelty and injustice in the name of 
those values, sentimentality and a lack of realism — these have been its 



15 



characteristic vices in the past. And, despite changes for the better, they 
remain its characteristic vices today. 

In the coming days, and probably soon, it is likely to have to prove its 
capacity for adjustment far beyond what has been true in the past. And in 
that time I shall hope, as its loyal son, that its virtues will tower over and 
conquer its faults and have the making of the Southern world to come. But 
of the future I shall venture no definite prophecies. It would be a brave man 
who would venture them in any case. It would be a madman who would 
venture them in face of the forces sweeping over the world in the fateful 
year of 1940. 



16 



W.T. Cash Bibliography 



u Buck Duke's University." The American Mercury Sept. 1933: 102-110. 
"Close View of a Calvinist Lhasa." The American Mercury April 1933: 443-451. 
"Genesis of the Southern Cracker." The American Mercury 'May 1935: 105-108. 
"Holy Men Muff a Chance." The American Mercury Jan. 1934: 112-118. 
"Jehovah of the Tar Heels." The American Mercury 17.92 (July 1929): 310-318. 
"The Mind of the South." The American Mercury 18.70 (Oct. 1929): 185-192. 
The Mind of the South. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1941. 

"Literature and the South." The Saturday Review of Literature Dec. 28, 1940: 3- 
4,18-19. 

"Paladin of the Drys." The American Mercury Oct. 1931: 139-147. 
"The War in the South." The American Mercury February 1930: 163-169. 

Additional information on Mr. Cash and his work can be found at 
www.ncwriters.org and in: 

Clayton, Bruce. W.J. Cash, a Life. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 
1991. 

Eagles, Charles W., ed. The Mind of the South: Fifty Years Later. Jackson: 

University Press of Mississippi, 1992. 
Escott, Paul D., ed. W.J. Cash and the Minds of the South. Baton Rouge: 

Louisiana State University Press, 1992. 
Hobson, Fred. "The Meaning of Aristocracy: Wilbur Cash and William 

Alexander Percy" in his Tell About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain. 

Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983. 244-294. 
King, Richard H. A Southern Renaissance: The Cultural Awakening of the 

American South. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. 
Morrison, Joseph L. "Found: The Missing Editorship ofWJ. Cash." The North 

Carolina Historical Review 47.1 (Jan. 1970): 40-50. 
— . "The Obsessive 'Mind' of W.J. Cash." Virginia Quarterly Review 41 .2 (Spring 
1965). 266-286. 

— . W.J. Cash, Southern Prophet: a Biography and Reader. New York: Knopf, 
1967. 

O'Brien, Michael. "A Private Passion: W.J. Cash," in Rethinking the South: 
Essays in Lntellcctual History, Ed. Michael O'Brien. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins 
University Press, 1988. 179-189. 

Rubin, Louis D. Jr. "The Mind of the South." Sewanee Review 62 A (Oct. -Dec. 
1954): 683-695. 

Woodward, C. Vann. "The Elusive Mind of the South". American 

Counterpoint: Slavery and Racism in the Nordi-South Dialogue. Boston: 
Litde, Brown, 1971. 161-183. 
--. "W.J. Cash Reconsidered." New York Review of Books 13.10 (Dec. 4, 
1969): 28-34. 

Wilbur J. Cash Collection. Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest 
University. Web. http://zsr. wfu.edu/collections/digital/cash/. 

W.J. Cash: Quandaries of the Mind- A Multimedia Examination of W.J. Cash 
and his Writings. Web. http://wjcash.org/ 



17 



18 




Allan Gurganus 

b. 1947 

"Concerning Allan Gurganus" 
by Ilan Dunham 

"He works without a safety net: no precautions are 
taken against pathos, bathos, authorial 
intervention. As a result, his best stories command 
a sort of sublimity of the mundane; they locate the 
dangerous glamour in ordinariness... Gurganus can do anything he likes as 
a writer."- Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

"Yes, I write the funniest books possible about the worst things that can 
happen to people." 
- Allan Gurganus 

In one line Allan Gurganus offers his credo. A world view is certainly 
implied. But can humor fully map the mortal surprises we all dread most? 
Is History actually funny? This writer's mission seems based upon a seismic 
contradiction. Suffering can be rendered with sympathy, but with wit? Are 
the tribulations of buck-privates and small-town citizens the truest record of 
a given age? 

Such questions abound in the novels, essays and stories of Allan 
Gurganus. Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1947, he has made 
his state his subject. Over the last three decades, his imaginary Falls, North 
Carolina, has become a very real locus — a curative destination — for readers 
in sixteen languages. 

Since The New Yorker published his first story in 1973, the writer has 
perfected a lyrical form of historical testimony. Like many other 
Southerners, his short stories tend to "go long." In recent years his tales 
might be characterized as novellas, several of which approach a novel's 
length. Many such stories offer us single speakers locked into some 
personal-historical dilemma. Gurganus has perfected a curious fusion of 
public events — wars, epidemics, the parade-days of any epoch — with some 
side-street reality peculiar to the person speaking. Of his Oldest Living 
Confederate Widow Tells All, The New York Times wrote simply, "It 
revises the national epic." But how? 

The writer has sidestepped anything called "historical fiction." In 
Widow, The Practical Heart, and other works set in the nineteenth or early 
twentieth centuries, history is not visited upon characters' exteriors like 
wounds or blows; it instead emerges in a series of expectations, 



19 



conventions, confusions. The past seems to emerge from a speaker's very 
interior. 

Gurganus once quipped that he was "bilingual: I still speak Nineteenth 
Century." He has revealed using Montgomery- Ward catalogues for 
whatever year he is seeking to portray. The novels and stories can offer a 
restless shuttling between the sometimes cruel simplifications of a farm 
village's nineteenth century and the technological uncertainties of the 
twenty- first. Several stories ("A Hog Loves Its Life") commence with 
courtship and economic struggles in the rusticated 1880's only to fire 
forward into some future seeming to shine with promise. 

The language that a Gurganus character speaks is naturally vetted for 
period accuracy, but its tone must first be personal, imbued with the built- 
in contradictions that vouchsafe any human being. This writer always urges 
his students to read their work aloud to themselves, then others, "To write 
out loud." He assures them that all writing is a form of vocal music, 
whether or not the reader's lips move while consuming printed language. It 
is evident that the inventor of Confederate widow Lucy Marsden, called by 
one critic "an American Molly Bloom-Scheherazade," would first honor the 
aural. Each story must create a new voice in his long gallery of such. 

Somehow, unaccountably, the reader finds himself listening through 
reading. Said reader grows gently implicated, then forcefully button-holed. 
Some have even reported finding themselves drafted as court-appointed 
advocates, working pro bono, for Gurganus' multifarious characters. By the 
end, this writer's best work becomes an ingenious emotional collaboration. 

In "Blessed Assurance," a middle-aged white millionaire confides he 
once sold funeral insurance to ancient black women. Several late-payers he 
welshed on in exchange for a company bonus; his personal wealth now 
seems to him founded on one incontrovertible moral lapse. In "It Had 
Wings," a retired saleswoman, alone at home, discovers a nude male angel 
unconscious near her backyard picnic table; she somehow helps him aloft. 
In "He's One, Too," a handsome, married Superintendent of Schools finds 
himself entrapped on morals charges involving a policeman's young son. 

"Behind every fortune there's a crime," Balzac once explained. In 
Gurganus' moral universe, one act of kindness can prove as dangerous as 
any seeming misdeed. Given the inverted ethics underwriting such stories, 
the courage to act becomes itself a ground for accusation. The impulse to 
take on others' woes means overlooking too many of your own. There's a 
sense of how official culture too often works at the expense of individual 
freedom. This awareness makes Gurganus' fiction suspenseful and often 
surprising. And yet, a certain sensual acceptance of the world yields 
unexpected rewards. His characters announce hearty appetites and they do 
enjoy sleep, dreams. Concerted pleasures arrive when least expected and 
often serve as palliative buffers, transient if erotic compensations. Few 



20 



writers working today limn with such precision the pivot-point where 
private safety ends and public martyrdom commences. 

Maybe all this is simply shorthand for Allan Gurganus' vaunted 
"historical imagination." He has pointed out that all stories are histories, 
and all participate in one particular period as well as in Time generally. But 
even his fictions set in contemporary times feel mindful of a ruddering past, 
aware of whatever period- brackets might eventually come to mute and 
preserve this particular present-tense. 

He was born in the South, educated in Philadelphia, then New York, 
then Iowa City, then Palo Alto, and often traveled abroad. But it will 
surprise no one that an author so identified with his native soil must return 
to it. 

"Can't go home again?" he wrote in an essay. "Only a petulant 
adolescent boy would ever imagine you could leave it!" 

Thirty years along, it might prove instructive to look back over 
Gurganus' output. Enthusiasts have called his work "operatic." They might 
be referring to its range of memorable emotional peaks. (The burning of 
the plantation house in Widow's "Black, White and Lilac" is sometimes 
cited as one such high point). But "operatic" also suggests that the prose 
remains sing-able. It lies within the range of any dimensional professional 
voice. Gurganus' best arias can yield the immediacy of live theater, a 
linguistic compression akin to poetry. Twain and Whitman, those most 
vocal of American voices, have been cited as grandfathers, illustrious points 
of comparison. 

Since the root of the word "vocation" is "voice" itself, most critics 
agree that Allan Gurganus probably experienced early in life some sort of 
calling. He is now at work on a long novel, The Erotic History of a 
Southern Baptist Church. It will continue the Falls trilogy begun with 
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AH. The writer seems bent on 
giving voice to every native of his invented village. 

The writer has been honored by other writers. His state has offered 
both its Sir Walter Raleigh Prize and the North Carolina Award. Elected by 
his nation's artistic peers to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 
Gurganus has maintained a serious literary reputation. He is called — in 
view of his stately output and evident linguistic skills — "a writer's writer." 
But the novelist has also become, as if by accident, a best-seller in the U.S., 
Italy, Germany, and England. 

Given the oddity and force of his characters' heightened, stylized 
speech itself, theatrical adaptations were probably inevitable. Films and 
Broadway have both attempted variations on his textured songs of 
experience. Adaptations of his work have won four Emmys, luring 
Academy Award-winning actors like Donald Sutherland, Cecily Tyson, 
Diane Lane, Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn. But the author has never 



21 



been tempted to write for film. His faith in prose narration-about his 
phantom town of twelve hundred souls, a bird sanctuary-remains unshaken. 

Critics have noted his ability to occupy both the open plain of Comedy 
and the darker forest of Historical Tragedy. Most novelists choose early on 
either the comic terrain or the other. (Chekhov is one notable exception.) 
Maybe this co-existent split vision of Gurganus' helps account for some of 
his work's energy. He seems to write about every kind of person except a 
passive one; his characters are workers and doers, however misguided. The 
great-nephew of preachers and the son of a lay-minister, he is plainly 
intrigued with how man-made rules often tread upon eternal laws. 
Gurganus, like any decent stand-up-comic, also takes responsibility for his 
imagination's own admitted excesses. (That, indeed, often provides the 
very fulcrum of what's funny.) 

His language participates in the exaggerations endemic to folk sagas, 
shaggy dog stories, traveling salesmen's off-color jokes. His tales can seem 
both bone-true and unmistakably "tall." He has mentioned his high regard 
for late Flannery O'Connor stories, praising the "conjunction of the most 
refined theological concern with the very broadest physical comedy." 

Empathy is an assumed watchword for all fiction. "Sympathy" means 
"to react like another." "Empathy" surpasses even that, implying unanimity 
of response. It suggests a single organism consisting of writer and subject, 
fused. In Gurganus' work, even the "heavies" (there are no villains) get 
accorded the same rights and privileges allowed foreground protagonists. 

Though he headed to college in Philadelphia at age eighteen, the 
subject of local small town and rural life seems to have been a source of joy 
even in his earliest social story-telling. It held pride of place in his first 
experiments as both a painter and a writer. 

After his one year at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the 
University of Pennsylvania, he dropped out of school and directly into the 
path of the Selective Service Act. "They were less than selective in coming 
after me. I tried resisting going to Vietnam but my Republican parents 
were all for the military's 'making a man of me.' (Up to and including a 
dead one, I guess.) So my essays about passivism, my letters from 
Presbyterian preachers, were first ignored then lost by the Tarboro draft 
board." 

The eighteen-year-old found himself, after a stint with double 
pneumonia at Great Lakes Naval Training Base, onboard the USS 
Yorktown. That World War II aircraft carrier was now bound for Southeast 
Asia. It was on this ship, with its full crew of 4,000, that Allan Gurganus, 
"unable to find the oil painting studio," discovered its library instead. 
Though he had received a lively public education in Rocky Mount, his 
truest attentions seem to have been engaged by painting and being Student 
Body Vice President; that job meant planning weekly assembly programs. 
"Including a student homage to the Liz Taylor- Richard Burton Cleopatra 



22 



then being filmed. The football team played shirtless slaves. Our ancient 
Latin teacher, against all expectations, loved the show. She had never heard 
of Liz Taylor but she praised our pageant 'for bringing the classical world 
terribly alive as never before.'" 

Sufficiently bored, Gurganus found himself reduced to reading the very 
novels whose book reports he had faked in school. Trained as an artist at 
the old-fashioned Pennsylvania Academy, he began to write using that same 
apprenticeship through imitation. "I did a Chapter One in the style of 
Dickens. Another chapter I pushed along with the fresh-laundered 
efficiency of Jane Austen. By the time I was released after three-and-a-half 
battleship-gray years, I had saved my mind by giving myself a liberal 
education. Sarah Lawrence, the future alma mater, awarded me two years' 
college credit for the twelve hundred books I'd consumed and reported on 
during those long months at sea. I was out of faith with the war and my 
government. But in literature I found a force I could wholeheartedly and 
forever serve." 

After working with Grace Paley at Sarah Lawrence, Gurganus went on 
to the classes of John Cheever and Stanley Elkin at the Iowa Writers' 
Workshop. From there, he won a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford. 
He would move back to North Carolina for a teaching job at Duke 
University before returning to New York and working at his undergraduate 
college, Sarah Lawrence. He was awarded tenure there in 1988. 

While working as a college teacher at Stanford, Duke, and Sarah 
Lawrence, Gurganus wrote daily. His stories found their way into Best 
American Stories and O'Henry Award collections. Knopf eventually offered 
him a contract for his long work-in-progress Oldest Living Confederate 
Widow Tells All. This 1989 work met with rhapsodic reviews, comparisons 
to Joyce, Twain, Garcia Marquez. 

Widow proved a rarity among books by a white Southerner: it was 
embraced by the black community. Gloria Naylor, the African American 
novelist, chose it as a Main Selection of the Book of the Month Club. And 
part of her citation read, "If the cosmos had been so ordered that William 
Faulkner and Alice Walker could have collaborated somewhere on a desert 
island, the result would have been a novel similar to but not quite as good 
as Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. You feel deeply for the 
book's Confederate citizens and for their slaves, struggling toward human 
dignity. Reminiscent of Absalom, Absalom, Gurganus' power is uncanny." 

The novel was followed in 1991 by a group of stories and novellas, 
White People, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Work 
of American Fiction. Gurganus next turned his historic sense on a public 
health catastrophe he had just improbably survived. 1996's novel Plays 
Well with Others recounts the rise and fall of a band of young New York 
artists. The early days of their brilliant careers turn out to be the earliest 
days of AIDS in Manhattan. 



23 



This work was followed by 200 Ts The Practical Heart: Four Novellas, 
a return to the shorter form in units showing the greatest possible variety of 
voices and periods. The critical reception was laudatory. Five days after its 
publication, the World Trade Center fell. 

From a boyhood spent among the burned ruins of Sherman's March, 
the obsession with history came naturally. History is a foregone conclusion 
in the fiction. Neigborhood history, village and family history, blend with 
national cataclysms. The author has said in a recent Iowa Writers' 
Workshop interview (available at the readers' site allangurganus.com), 
"Writing fiction means being enlisted by history while self-defensively 
dreaming right back into it. Novelists use literal events on the page. A 
pinch of borrowed reality can strength both the tale and teller. Tf this is 
true, then that might be so, and if that proves possible, why not even this?' 
We must trust our daily knowledge of what's unusual, meaning — if we are 
to properly simulate genius history itself — what is utterly improbable." 

Finally "History," in Gurganus' fictional cosmos, always includes this 
crucial interest: Who gets to tell the history? Which winner is allowed to 
mint it as coin of the realm? 

Throughout his fiction we find multiple, debated versions of a single 
tale. The last teller usually wins. (Recent science informs us that our last 
memory of a given childhood event does not equate with access to the 
original stimulation; we are simply remembering the last time that particular 
memory was summoned.) And so does narrative work in Gurganus' Falls. 
The most recent and vigorously told version usually outs. The process of 
history is seen as a continuous telling, a spiritual rite of renewal. "Stories 
only happen to people who can tell them. She who laughs, lasts." And she 
who tells the best local story in a universal way most indelibly, she wins the 
Homeric position of veneration, power. 

"I contain multitudes," Walt Whitman reassures those eloquent 
congresses assembled within each of us. And in Falls, North Carolina, at 
least, citizens are all consulted, one by one, an aria at a time. 



"Appomattox, baby" 

From Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. New York: Knopf, 1989. 
Died on me finally. He had to. 

Died doing his bad bugle imitations, calling for the maps, died 
bellowing orders at everybody horses included. "Not over there, 
dunderdick, rations go here." Stayed bossy to the last. He would look 
down in bed, he'd command the sheets to roll back. They didn't. 



24 



— My poor husband, Captain Marsden, he perished one Election Day. 
Children were setting off firecrackers on our vacant lot. Cap believed it was 
Antietam flaring up on him again like a game knee. So he went happy, 
yelling March! To his men (all dead) and to me (not dead yet, thank you 
very much). It's about what I expected I reckon. 

He'd been famous for years around here. The longer he lived the more 
he got on the local news, then the national noticed, black and white and in 
color. They brought cameras South and all these lights walked right injto 
our home and his bedroom. Folks put TV makeup on him. He thought it 
was poison ivy medicine. He hit the girl doing it. 

I had to prime the Captain, make him tell his usuals. By then it was like 
getting your parrot going for company, you would say a key word and he'd 
chew it over, then you'd see it snag way in, and out whole favorites would 
crank — battle by battle — like rolls on some old player piano. 

Strangers kept filing through our house, kept not wiping their feet, 
come to see the final vet of the War Betwixt States propped up. All them 
boys in blue were cold in Yankee earth. Captain had tricked the winning 
side by holding on to the last, too proud to quit, maybe too cranky. Oh he 
was a sight — gray uniform bunched over his pajamas, beard wild as a hedge 
and white to match his cataracts grown big as ice cubes. Above the bed he'd 
hung a tintype of his missing buddy, he kept a rusty musket within easy 
reach. From a nail, one child-sized bugle dangled on its blood-red cord. 
Plus he'd had a dried twig off this tree where something bad happened. 

. . . His final thirty years I served as tour guide, and what I gave tours 
of was Captain Marsden. Kept hiding the bedpan, kept carding knots out of 
that beard, forever wrestling him into uniform and with Cap siccing the 
sentinels on me yet again. 

... I begged reporters to please not use flashbulbs on him. Bright pops 
put him in an artillery frame of mind, shocked him into yelling for the horse 
brigade. But no sooner my back was turned, I'd see white light ricochet 
down the hall. I'd hear folks scatter. 

Off he'd go again. Northern camera crews had flashed him back to 
combat moods and then they left. I had to slip in and calm him as best I 
could. I sat, stroking his white hair, smoothing his white beard. I sat cooing 
the only word that ever helped: "Appomattox, Appomattox, Appomattox, 
baby." — It's an Indian word, you know. That's why it's so pretty. 



25 



Allan Gurganus Bibliography 



"Old Houses & Young Men: Notes on Renovation & Survival." in Twenty-Seven 
Views of Hillsborough: A Southern Town in Prose and Poetry. Hillsborough, 
N.C.: Eno Publishers, 2010. 

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. 

Plays Well with Others. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. 

The Practical Heart: Four Novellas. New York: Knopf, 2001. 

White People. New York: Knopf, 1991 . 

Gurganus, Allan, and Jane Holding. Oldest Living Confederate Widow: Her 
Confession. New York: Samuel French, 2008. 

Additional information on Mr. Gurganus and his work can be found at 
www.ncwriters.org and in: 

"Allan Gurganus," in The North Carolina Awards. Raleigh: North Carolina 

Awards Committee, 1999. no page numbers. 
Bonner, J. W. "Allan Gurganus (1947- )." Twenty-First-Century American 

Novelists. Second Series. Eds. James R. Giles and Wanda H. Giles. Detroit: 

Gale, 2009. 138-145. 
Ketchin, Susan. "When I'm Fog on a Coffin Lid: An Interview with Allan 

Gurganus." The Southern Review 29 A (Autumn 1993): 645-663. 
Spencer, John. "Allan Gurganus: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary 

Works." Bulletin of Bibliography 54.1 (March 1997): 21-24. 
Wallace, B. "Allan Gurganus," in Contemporary Gay American Novelists: A 

Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook., edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson, 

Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. 178-182. 



26 



Robert Morgan 
b. 1944 



Robert Morgan was born October 3, 
1944, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and grew up on the family farm 
in the Green River valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In his first three 
years he lived in a house near the river built by his great-grandfather Pace 
just after the Civil War. It was a house without plumbing, and the family 
kept their milk and butter in the nearby springhouse. With no car or truck 
or tractor, much of the work on the farm was done with a black horse called 
Old Nell. 

Morgan has said that his earliest memory is waking up on his father's 
shoulder as the family returned home from prayer meeting. It had been hot 
in the church and he had fallen asleep. The motion of the walking made the 
stars above swim and dance, and the pasture grass sparkled with dew in the 
starlight. His mother and sister walked beside them, and the world of the 
night, with mountains looming on all sides like vast shadows, seemed at 
once mysterious and familiar. 

When not working on the farm, tying pole bean strings, hoeing corn, 
leading the cow to the pasture and back, he was free to explore the yard and 
fields, the pasture, the gullies and the woods. He climbed most of the trees 
on the mountainside, and with a cousin dammed ponds on the pasture 
branch. He caught June Bugs and tied threads to their legs and flew them 
like model airplanes. He smoothed a board and used it as a sled to slide on 
the leaves down the side of Meetinghouse Mountain. 

Hoeing corn and walking in the fields along Green River he found 
arrowheads and pieces of Indian pottery. It seemed to him the ground was 
haunted by the Cherokees and other Indians who had lived there for 
hundreds and thousands of years. Indians seemed to shout from the distant 
waterfall in wet weather. His dad told him stories about the Indians and 
Daniel Boone, and the last battle between the whites and Indians near the 
head of the river at the Abe Jones Flats. 

Morgan wrote his first story in the sixth grade, in Mr. Ward's class. It 
was the year the Henderson County Public Library began sending a book 
mobile to Green River Baptist Church ever first Monday afternoon of each 
month. From the book mobile, an old utility truck outfitted with book 
shelves, he took Farmer Boy and Little House On the Prairie. Then he 
discovered Jack London and James Oliver Curwood's stories of the Yukon, 
the Mounties, and Northwest Territories. He liked to read those adventure 
stories so much he brought them to school and, placing a novel inside a 
spelling book, continued to read in class. 



27 



Once Mr. Ward caught him reading while he was lecturing and instead 
of scolding the fiction-intoxicated miscreant, he simply lifted the book out 
of Robert's hands and laid it on the shelf without pausing in his lecture. In 
the spring of 1957 the class took a day trip to the Biltmore House, George 
Vanderbilt's improbable chateau near Asheville. The trip cost three dollars, 
which Robert didn't have. He stayed in the classroom, and when Mr. Ward 
saw him sitting there after the other students had left he said, "I don't want 
you to waste the day. Why don't you write a story, like those you enjoy 
reading." 

Mr. Ward gave him a plot: a man is lost in the Canadian Rockies, 
without a gun or knife. How does he find his way back to civilization? 
Robert stared for a long time at the blank sheet of paper in front of him. 
Much as he loved to read stories, he did not know how to write one. Finally 
he decided he would just make up some details about how the man 
survived. He described how his character sharpened a stick on a rock to 
make a spear, how he rubbed sticks together to start a fire, and how he used 
a thorn as a kind of fish hook. He became so involved in making up details 
about the man's survival he forgot the time and was surprised when the 
other students returned from their outing. And he had written his first 
story. 

Morgan had grown up in a family and community of story tellers. His 
grandpa loved to tell yarns about ghosts, mad dogs, panthers, bears, snakes. 
Though without much formal education, Robert's father, Clyde R. 
Morgan, loved to read history and study geography. He subscribed to 
National Geographic and loved to tell stories about the Civil War, the 
Revolution, about Daniel Boone and the Indians, family stories, Bible 
stories. His father could make history live through narratives and vivid 
detail. Robert could not remember a time when he did not know that 
Stonewall Jackson, just before he died, said, "Let us cross over the river and 
rest in the shade of the trees." 

Morgan's mother was also a storyteller, with many anecdotes about 
witchcraft, babies "marked" in the womb, snakes that charmed both 
animals and people, victims of demon possession, and people who had 
committed "the unpardonable sin." 

In those days the young were urged to study science "to beat the 
Russians" who had sent up the first Sputnik in 1957. He applied to NC 
State University to study aerospace engineering and applied mathematics. 

While studying physics and differential equations, Morgan decided to 
accelerate and take a more advanced class in partial differential equations in 
the spring of 1963. But his advisor refused permission to accelerate since he 
had not made up a deficiency in solid geometry. In the gap left in his 
schedule Morgan signed up for English 222, Creative Writing, with the 
novelist Guy Owen. When he submitted to the class a story about his 
great-grandmother Delia Capps, who as a small child had been in 
Walterboro, South Carolina, when Sherman's army came through, Owen 

28 



brought the story into class and said, "I wept when I read this story." 
Thrilled that an author who had sold his novels to New York and 
Hollywood could be moved by something he had written, Morgan began 
to think more and more about the art of words, and less about differential 
equations. 

For the next academic year Morgan transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill. 
At Chapel Hill Morgan was lucky to have Joseph Flora as his first teacher of 
English. It was Flora who introduced him to the literature of the West and 
the frontier. He was especially fortunate to have Jessie Render as his 
writing teacher at UNC-Chapel Hill. Morgan joined the staff of The 
Carolina Quarterly m& met students from the Northeast who were 
passionately interested in poetry. Morgan was himself becoming more and 
more attentive to poetry. Having memorized poems in grammar school and 
high school by Poe, Lanier, Wordsworth, and Bryant, Morgan's true 
introduction to reading poetry had come when his sister returned from her 
first year at Bob Jones University with her English textbook, an anthology 
of American literature. Browsing through the book he found Walt 
Whitman, and was astonished by the first lines of the poem, "I celebrate 
myself and sing myself." He had never heard a voice with such intimacy, 
force and immediacy. Continuing to explore the collection he came across 
Wallace Stevens's "Domination of Black" with its rhyming hemlocks and 
peacocks, and the turning of the fire that is compared to the turning of the 
leaves outside and the turning of the stars far overhead. Hearing about Carl 
Sandburg, a neighbor in Flat Rock, had also sparked an interest in poetry. 

In 1965, Morgan married Nancy Bullock of Hendersonville. 

After one postgraduate year studying literature at Chapel Hill, Morgan 
transferred to the MFA program at UNC-Greensboro, where he had the 
particular good fortune to study with Fred Chappell. Holding two part- 
time jobs there, he did most of his class work as tutorials, meeting with 
Fred Chappell at a cafe called The Pickwick to go over the poems he was 
writing. At Greensboro he wrote less fiction and more and more poems. 
His son Ben was born in the summer of 1967. 

Another happy event in 1967 was the founding of the magazine 
Lillabulero by Russell Banks, William Matthews, and Newt Smith in Chapel 
Hill. In 1969 Lillabulero Press published his first book, Zirconia Poems in 
Ithaca, New York, where Matthews was now teaching at Cornell. 

Receiving a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1969, he 
returned to Henderson County for two intense years of writing, reading, 
house painting, farming. Living in an old farmhouse rented from a cousin, 
he studied the grasses, flowers, weeds, and trees of the region, and wrote 
hundreds of drafts of short poems, searching for authenticity in diction, in 
compression and cadence of speech. The poems he wrote in those years 
became his second book, Red Owl 

In the fall of 1970 he gave a poetry reading at Cornell University, and 
met Baxter Hathaway, A.R. Ammons, Walter Slatoff, and other writers who 

29 



taught there. The next spring he was invited to teach at Cornell for a year 
while Amnions was on sabbatical. The move from the isolation of the Blue 
Ridge Mountains to Cornell was so jarring hat he wrote little that year. But 
W.W. Norton accepted Red Owl Tor publication in 1972. Invited to stay on 
at Cornell, he did begin writing again, but the new poems were in a more 
fluent, more conversational voice, incorporating narrative, history, rhyme 
and traditional forms. 

Living in Ithaca, sometimes homesick for the mountains of North 
Carolina, he began to study the history of the southern Appalachian region, 
the geography and geology, the flora and fauna, the settlement and speech, 
the Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Indians, the agriculture, the 
Revolution and Civil War. In Ithaca, which he called "Northern 
Appalachia," he became a student of his native region in a way he never had 
while living in North Carolina. And Cornell seemed an appropriate place to 
study and write poetry, with its agronomists and astronomers, 
ornithologists, architects and orchardists. 

Morgan had never intended to stay in Ithaca, but the university 
promoted him so fast and so high that he remained there for forty years, 
becoming Kappa Alpha Professor of English in 1992. 

Around 1980 Morgan decided to write prose fiction again. While 
continuing to write poems, he developed a new habit of getting up early 
every morning, before the children were awake, to work an hour or two on 
narrative. His daughter Laurel was born in 1974 and Nancy Kathryn in 
1978. As it turned out, it took him about six years to write a short story 
good enough to publish. 

The magazine at Cornell called Epoch began to publish Morgan's 
stories, and in 1989 Peachtree Publishers of Atlanta brought out his first 
volume of short stories, The Blue Valleys. 

In 1989 Morgan received a fellowship from the Guggenheim 
Foundation. In 1974, 1981, and 1987, he had received additional grants 
from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was also given a fellowship 
by the New York State Arts Council. In 1979 Poetry magazine had given 
him the Eunice Tietjens Prize. And in 1991 the Fellowship of Southern 
Writers awarded him the Hanes Poetry Prize. The same year the governor 
of North Carolina selected him for the North Carolina Award in Literature. 

The most important breakthrough for fiction writing came in 1989, 
when Morgan hoped to write a novel based on the life and death of his 
Uncle Robert, who was killed in a B-17 crash in East Anglia in November 
of 1943. For research he interviewed pilots and navigators, bombardiers and 
tailgunners from WWII, searched for and found the site of the crash in 
Suffolk. But having acquired so much factual information, he was unable to 
begin the fictional narrative. In frustration he decided to let the soldier's 
fiancee tell part of the story. 

It was intimidating to think of writing from the point of view of a 
woman, in the voice of a woman. What did he know about how she would 

30 



view her life and recall events? But determined to begin his story he decided 
to become like an actor who erases himself to get into the character he is 
playing. Giving all his imaginative energy to the character, he let her tell her 
own story. It was this stepping aside and letting his character speak for 
herself that was his breakthrough. By the time he had written 30 pages he 
knew it as the best thing he'd ever written. It was the most important 
insight he ever learned about fiction writing. Eudora Welty had said as 
much in One Writer's Beginning, but Morgan, always a slow learner, had to 
come to the recognition on his own. As he liked to say to young writers, if 
there was hope for him there was hope for everybody. The story of the 
soldier's fiancee became the title novella of the book The Mountains Won't 
Remember Us. 

Writing in first person, letting his characters tell their own stories, he 
finished the three novellas of The Hinterlands, published by Algonquin 
Books of Chapel Hill in 1994. Morgan had met Shannon Ravenel when he 
was an undergraduate at UNC, and after she chose his story "Poinsett's 
Bridge" for New Stories from the South and expressed an interest in his 
longer fiction, he began reworking a draft of a longer novel loosely based 
on the lives of his paternal grandparents. The novel was originally written in 
3rd person, but after he decided to recast the story in 1st person, letting 
Ginny Powell tell her own story, the novel virtually exploded into life. He 
could hardly wait to get up each morning to see what his narrator would 
tell him. Her story became The Truest Pleasure, published in 1995, and was 
chosen as a New York Times Notable Book for that year. 

Desiring to write a companion novel based on the lives of his maternal 
grandparents, whom he had known when he was a little boy, he stalled out 
each time he began, as the voice of Ginny Powell from the previous book 
reappeared. In frustration he gave it up and wrote only poems and short 
stories for over a year. Then in the spring of 1998, while serving as visiting 
writer at Davidson College, he realized that though Julie in the projected 
novel was not as well educated as Ginny, or as confident of her voice, that 
lack of education and confidence could be incorporated into the voice. 
Once he began writing the novel that became Gap Creek, he completed the 
first draft in less than four months, before returning to Ithaca that summer. 
As it turned out, Gap Creek was his lucky book, garnering wonderful 
reviews, chosen by Oprah for her book club, remaining on the New, York 
Times bestseller list for three months. The novel received the Southern 
Book Award for 2000 and the Appalachian Writers Association Award. The 
Bairn of Gilead Tree: New and Selected Stories, published the same year, 
received rave reviews. The novel This Rock followed in 2001, and Brave 
Enemies: A Novel of the American Revolution in 2003 . 

In the meantime Morgan had published Topsoil Road: New Poems in 
2000, and The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems would follow in 
2004. He served as visiting writer at Furman University in 2002 and 2004, 
and as Blackburn Visiting Writer at Duke in 2003. It was while he was at 

31 



Duke that he proposed to Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill that he write a 
nonfiction book, a biography of Daniel Boone. The research on the 
American Revolution for the novel Brave Enemies had renewed his interest 
in the frontier and American history. From boyhood he had been fascinated 
by the Indians, by the meeting of the Indians with the whites. His father 
had told stories about Daniel Boone and suggested that Boone, whose 
mother was Sarah Morgan, was a distant relative. Morgan had always loved 
to read biographies, and suspected that biography might be the most 
important genre in contemporary literature, as well as one of the most 
popular. 

Plunging into research on Boone and the frontier, he visited all the 
places Boone was known to have lived. Delving into the archives of the vast 
Draper Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society at Madison, he pored 
over documents and account books in Boone's own handwriting. 
Historians in Kentucky guided him to little known sites and shared survey 
maps and tax records from the eighteenth century. Boone; A Biography was 
published in 2007. 

In 2009 a chapbook of new poems called October Crossing was 
published by Broadstone Books of Frankfort, Kentucky. In the fall of 2011 
a full-length book of poems will be published by Penguin. Morgan is also at 
work on a long study of the Westward Expansion, a kind of sequel to 
Boone, tentatively titled Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the 
Westward Expansion. A series of linked biographies, covering the period 
from Thomas Jefferson to the Mexican-American War, the book explores 
the Mexican version of events as well as the American point of view. 

Though increasingly interested in history and history writing, Morgan 
has continued to write poems and prose fiction. In 2005 he was inducted 
into the Fellowship of Southern Writers. In 2007 he received the Academy 
Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He 
has also received the Appalachian Heritage Award from Shepherd 
University, the R. Hunt Parker Award from the North Carolina Humanities 
and Historical Society, the SELA Award from the Southern Library 
Association. In 2008 Boone was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book 
Award, and received the Kentucky Book Award. UNC-Chapel Hill awarded 
him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 2006, and the Thomas Wolfe 
Award in 2008. In 2005 he held the Whichard Chair at East Carolina 
University, and in 2007 the Rivers-Coffey Chair at Appalachian State 
University. 

In Spring 2010 Southern Quarterly published a special issue edited by 
Jessie Graves devoted to essays on Morgan's writing. Robert West is also 
editing a volume of essays on Morgan's poetry and fiction for MacFarland 
Publishers. 

In reviewing Gap Creek for the New York Times, Dwight Garner 
wrote, "At their finest, his stripped-down and almost primitive sentences 
burn with the raw, lonesome pathos of Hank Williams' best songs." 

32 



Of Morgan's poetry John Lang has written, "Morgan combines careful 
scientific observation with the insight of a visionary like Blake. Morgan's 
poems often create a Brownian motion of their own, as they become 
annunciations of a power in nature that radiates supernatural light... 

"To read Morgan is to stand again at the edge of the orchard country, 
to gaze upon and move toward what he calls in the final line of 'Land 
Bridge', with its superb concluding pun, 'the tip of some unfolding/ giant 
land of our new being,/ the bridge to the original/ now buried beyond the 
littoral.'" 



"The Day I Fell in Love with the Shoals" 

from The Truest Pleasure. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1995. 

By myself I liked to walk along the still pools of the river beyond our 
fields, and into the woods up toward Cabin Creek. It soothed me to mosey 
on the banks where the water was slow and green. In fall leaves dropped in 
the river and appeared to float above the water they was so dry. In places 
the bank was scratched by muskrat slides. The woods by the river looked 
dark as a cellar. 

Pa said the Indians named Green River in their own tongue, and white 
people took the name from them. We lived so close to the head the river 
wasn't wider than a creek. It started as a spring eight miles to the west and 
swung through a long valley. At the shoals it poured through a slot between 
mountains. 

Pa said the river run on almost a hundred miles to the east. He said it 
run fast through Green River Cove as it dropped out of the mountains into 
flat country. He said his great-great-grandpa that fought at Cowpens and 
Kings Mountain lived on Green River down there where it run into Broad 
River. When that end of the river was settled there was still Indians in the 
mountains. 

Sometimes I would set by the river and watch the water. The pools had 
a shiny green skin. Around sticks there was lips of ripples. Rings and curls 
passed over deep pools. In clear shallows minnows sprinkled this way and 
that way. 

I watched eddies where the river turned back on itself. Along the bank, 
water with lather and sticks on it was moving back upstream, going fast in 
places, then getting slow and coiling, and caught by the main current again. 
In places water got trapped in a pocket and turned and turned for hours. 

When I walked the river trail I could feel the ground shook by current. 
Above the shoals the bank trembled with the roar, like there was a furnace 
under it. The trail turned through laurels and climbed to a little bluff, and 
when you come down to the rocks there was the water foaming and 
flashing. The sight made me shudder. 



33 



The mountains rose straight up on either side of the shoals. From 
below, the slopes looked black. There was pines and hemlocks that stood by 
the water and pointed into the sky. And pines rose up the sides of the 
mountains, among the rock cliffs. The tops of the ridges was ragged and 
pointed with pine trees. 

In summer there would be a long snake sunning itself on the rocks. It 
was almost the color of water, and when you got close the moccasin poured 
itself into a crevice. 

The day I fell in love with the shoals I was standing with my feet in the 
water, below a big rock. It was like the water was talking, quoting scripture 
or muttering a poem. The river pulled at my feet heavy and powerful. The 
surface appeared to sort and resort a puzzle, scattering pieces and gathering 
them again. 

But I was looking at the tall hemlocks pointing straight up the side of 
the mountain. I looked through the tops of the lower trees toward the 
pines further up, right to those on top of the ridge. And then I saw a cloud 
moving. It was just a little cloud in the clear sky, but white as snow. And it 
was like I was standing and looking right up the ladder of trees into heaven. 

That was when I thought of the words from the Bible about the 
Ascension. "While they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him 
out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he 
went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel, which said, Ye 
men of Galilee why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" 



34 



Robert Morgan Bibliography 



At the Edge of the Orchard Countiy. Middletown, Conn.; Scranton, Pa.: Wesleyan 

University Press; Distributed by Harper & Row, 1987. 
The Balm of Gilead Tree: New and Selected Stories. Frankfort, KY: Gnomon, 

1999. 

The Blue Valleys: A Collection of Stories. Atlanta, Ga.: Peachtree Publishers, 
1989. 

Boone: A Biography. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. 
Brave Enemies: A Novel. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2003. 
Bronze Age. Emory, Va.: Iron Mountain Press, 1981. 

Gap Creek: A Novel. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1999. 
Good Measure: Essays, Inteniews, and Notes on Poetry. Baton Rouge: 

Louisiana State University Press, 1993. 
Green River: New and Selected Poems. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan 

University Press, 1991. 
Groundwork. Frankfort, Ky.: Gnomon Press, 1979. 

The Hinterlands: A Mountain Tale in Three Parts. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin 

Books of Chapel Hill, 1994. 
Land Diving: New Poems. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976. 
The Mountains Won 't Remember Us and Other Stories. Atlanta: Peachtree 

Publishers, 1992. 

October Crossing: Poems. Frankfort, Ky.; Asheville, N.C.: Broadstone Books; 

The Captain's Bookshelf, 2009. 
Red Owl. New York: Norton, 1972. 

Sigodlin: Poems. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1990. 

The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State 

University Press, 2004. 
This Rock: A Novel. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2001. 
Topsoil Road: Poems. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000. 
The Truest Pleasure. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1995. 
Trunk 8c Thicket. Fort Collins, Colo.: L'Epervier Press, 1978. 
The Voice in the Crosshairs. Ithaca, N.Y.: Angelfish Press, 1971. 
Watershed. Adanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1991. 
Wild Peavines. Frankfort, Ky.: Gnomon, 1996. 

Zirconia Poems. Northwood Narrows, N.H., Lillabulero Press, 1969. 

Additional information on Mr. Morgan and his work can be found at 
www . ncwriters . org and in: 

Bizzaro, Resa Crane; Bizzaro, Patrick. " 'the moral ambiguity of that time'' 

[lower case is correct]: A Conversation with Robert Morgan." Appalachian 
Heritage 32.3 (Summer 2004): 11-17. 

Booker, Suzanne. "A Conversation with Robert Morgan.' 1 Carolina Quarterly 
37.3 (1985): 13-22. 

Brosi, George. 'Robert Morgan's Mountain Roots." Appalachian Heritage 32.3 

(Summer 2004): 8-9. 
Chappell, Fred. "Morgan's Things." Appalachian Heritage 32.3 (Summer 2004): 

19-26. 



35 



Conway, Cecelia. "Robert Morgan." Twenty-First Century American Novelists. 
Ed. Suzanne Disheroon-Green. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale, 2004. 252- 
263. 

— . "Robert Morgan's Mountain Voice and Lucid Prose." An American Vein: 
Critical Readings in Appalachian Literature. Eds. Denny L. Miller, Sharon 
Hatfield, and Gurney Norman. Athens, Ohio: Ohio UP, 2005. 275-295. 

Graves, Jesse. "Lattice Work: Formal Tendencies in the Poetry of Robert Morgan 
and Ron Rash." Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South AS 
(2007): 78, 86, 146. 

Harmon, William. "Robert Morgan." Contemporary' Poets, Dramatists, Essayists, 
and Novelists of the South : a Bio- Bibliographical Sourcebook. Eds. Robert 
Bain and Joseph M. Flora. Westport, Conn : Greenwood Press, 1994. 
370-376. 

Harmon, William. "Robert Morgan: Imagination, Memory, and Region." 

Appalachia and Beyond: Conversations with Writers from the Mountain 
South. Ed. John Lang. Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 
2006.91-104. 

. "Robert Morgan's Pelagian Georgics: Twelve Essays. Parnassus, 9 

(Fall/Winter 1981): 5-30. 
Joseph, Tessa. "The 'Authentic Reader': An Interview with Robert Morgan." 

Carolina Quarterly 56.2-3 (Spring-Summer 2004): 68-73. 
Lang, John. "Coming Out from Under Calvinism: Religious Motifs in Robert 

Morgan's Poetry." An American Vein: Critical Readings in Appalachian 

Literature. Eds. Denny L. Miller, Sharon Hatfield, and Gurney Norman. 

Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2005. 261-274. 
Martin, D. G. "An Interview with Robert Morgan." Our State (2007): 14. 
"Robert Morgan Issue." Iron Mountain Review, 6.1 (Spring 1990). 
"Robert Morgan Special Issue." The Small Farm, 3 (March 1976). 
Schurer, Norbert. "An Interview with Robert Morgan." Pembroke Magazine 36 

(2004): 252-60. 



36 



Walter Hines Page 
1855 - 1918 

Like the college -educated /ad he. 
describes in his "Study of an Old Southern 
Borough/' Walter Hines Page looked 
around his native North Carolina in the 
post Civil War years and saw a troubled 
future. And, facing the same dilemma as 
the lad, he chose to leave the Old North 
State. As journalist, publisher, social 
reformer and statesmen, Page made his 
home in Boston, New York and London. 
But his writing and advocacy for such 
causes as industrial education and rural advancement in the South suggest 
that Page's roots laid firmly planted in the land of the long leaf pine. 

Wat, as Page was known to his family, was four months shy of his sixth 
birthday when North Carolina seceded from the United States on May 20, 
1861. His family, particularly his father, did not immediately embrace the 
rebel cause. Page's father, Frank, was a practical businessman, having made 
a small fortune from a timber and lumber operation based in the Piedmont 
near what is present-day Cary. He concluded that the South did not have 
the economic resources to sustain, and ultimately win, a war. Additionally, 
Frank Page was not a large slaveholder and saw no need for a battle to 
uphold the institution of slavery. At news of secession, Frank Page 
reportedly called the move "the most foolhardy enterprise that man ever 
undertook." 

But despite his objections to the war, Frank Page was not averse to 
doing business with the Confederacy. He saw a steady source of income in 
the nascent government's need for lumber. That relationship with the 
Confederacy did not extend, however, to standing for the cause on the 
battlefield. 

Frank Page's conflicted relationship with the Confederacy and the 
greater Southern cause left a lasting impact on his son. At age 13 Walter 
was sent to Bingham School, a boy's boarding school near Hillsborough. 
His classmates were the sons of former Confederate officers and statesmen. 
Recalling those years in an 1891 speech, Page said, "How greatly I suffered 
in my own childhood at our foremost school.... The boys rated one another 
according to the military prominence of their fathers, and my father was so 
unthoughtful as not to be even a colonel." The memory had not faded 
when Page penned his largely autobiographical novel The Southerner in the 
early 1900s. Nicholas Worth, the protagonist and a student at Colonel 
Graham's boarding school, engages in fisticuffs several times to defend his 
father's honor. 




37 



The youthful disputes described by Page smacked of the growing 
Southern belief in the "Lost Cause." Page biographer John Milton Cooper, 
Jr., suggests that his subject's time at Bingham marked his first exposure to 
the ideology, which boasted of the nobleness of the Southern fight and the 
chivalry of its warriors. A decade later, as a young writer seeking national 
exposure, Page would take on the Lost Cause, chiding Southerners for their 
allegiance to old traditions. 

After undergraduate studies at Trinity College in Randolph County and 
Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, the young scholar was 
invited in 1876 to join the first class of Fellows at the newly-formed Johns 
Hopkins University in Baltimore. Page planned to earn a graduate degree in 
Greek and possibly devote himself to teaching. But Greek grammar could 
not compete with Page's increasing desire to add his name to the list of 
literary greats. Consequently the budding writer left Johns Hopkins in 
March 1878. Over the course of the ensuing two years, Page bounced 
between North Carolina and Kentucky seeking to make ends meet teaching 
and freelancing for a host of publications. During one prolonged period in 
North Carolina, Page worked on an essay about the social fabric of a 
Southern town. The article would eventually find its way into The Atlantic 
Monthly in May 1881 as "Study of an Old Southern Borough." 

In January 1880 Page finally landed a full-time job in journalism 
working as a reporter for the Gazette newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri. In 
later years, Page would boast of having covered the stockyards, but, in 
truth, most of his reporting appears to have been about politics and local 
cultural events. Page's drive and talent as a writer served him well in St. 
Joseph. By summer 1880 he had taken over editorship of the Gazette. He 
remained in that position until May 1881, when he took a leave of absence 
from the paper to travel the South. 

Page's leave coincided with the publication of "Study of an Old 
Southern Borough" in The Atlantic Monthly, his first article for a national 
audience and his first enunciation of criticisms that he would level at the 
South throughout his life. Although he does not name the town in his 
essay, Page used Hillsborough as a model, describing a town with a 
"languid and self-satisfied appearance." Residents of the borough include 
the ante-bellum gentleman, who remains devoted to the ways of the pre- 
Civil War South, and the merchant, who sees "commercial possibilities" in 
the region if only "men of capital" could be persuaded to invest there. 

Page's "Old Southern Borough" also includes the lad. In contrast to 
the merchant and antebellum gentleman, Page writes, the lad is not firmly 
set in his convictions and beliefs. When his education is "finished," often 
marked by graduation from college, the boy frequently enters "one of the 
professions or business, and he follows in the very footsteps of his father — 
in life and in thought." But sometimes the lad diverges from this path. 



38 



....[He] discovers for himself the mental stagnation of his 
surroundings, sees the stupid way that is open for him at 
home, and rebels against it. The only successful rebellion, 
however, is an immediate departure.... Thus it has happened 
that the over-conservative spirit of these old towns has driven 
many of the best men away. 

Page closes his essay by laying out a direction for his native region. 

The new South cannot build up its possible civilization by 
looking backward and sighing, nor yet by simply pressing 
blindly forward in new paths that are now open. With a 
reverential respect for the past, which unhappily certain 
communities are too rapidly losing, and by a vigorous work 
for the futures, which many more communities neglect, it has 
through poverty a chance for greatness that is almost 
unparalleled in history. 

As The Atlantic Monthly } s largely Northeastern readership contemplated 
the portrait of the South painted by one of its native sons, Page himself 
sought to better understand the region about which he had just written. 
Although well familiar with Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, Page 
hardly knew other Southern states. His travels in summer 1881 took him 
through Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. From the road Page 
wrote letters to such major Northeastern newspapers as the Boston Post 
and the New York World detailing his encounters with Southerners he met 
along the way, including such notables as Jefferson Davis and Joel Chandler 
Harris. The papers printed his dispatches and asked for more. 

Having tasted a modicum of success at reaching a national audience, 
Page resigned from the Gazette in November 1881. The following month 
he started work at the New York World, one of the papers for which he had 
filed his Southern dispatches. During his first year at the paper Page wrote 
the occasional editorial and covered politics outside of New York. While 
covering the federal Tariff Commission in Atlanta, Page met a young 
attorney who, like himself, was both Southern and an intellectual. The 
journalist's friendship with Woodrow Wilson would remain strong as the 
two rose to national prominence and would eventually result in Page's 
appointment by Wilson to an ambassadorship. 

But in the early 1880s Page's mind was still very much set on a career 
in journalism. As he entered his second year at the New York World, Page 
shifted from reporting to literary criticism and editorial writing. But his new 
duties were short-lived. In spring 1883 newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer 
bought the World. Disdainful of the gritty style of reporting the new 
publisher was known to support, Page resigned in May 1883. He would 
later write that the World of his time had a "finished dignity such as no 



39 



American daily can now lay claim to." Its editorial staff, he added, "was 
made up of a better class of writers than any other daily this country has 
ever had. Its essays and special articles, its literary criticisms and editorials, 
were classics." 

Without a job to support his wife and two young sons, Page left New 
York and returned to North Carolina. But he did not remain idle for long. 
With money borrowed from his father and a few others, Page started the 
State Chronicle'm Raleigh in September 1883. He modeled the weekly 
newspaper after the format of his previous employers — the St. Joseph 
Gazette and the New York World. Its pages included a mix of serious 
journalism with lighter reading. As a weekly, the Chronicle could not 1 
provide up-to-the minute coverage of the news. Instead, Page sought to 
focus more on analysis and opinion. The first issue of the Chronicle 
promised "plain speaking editorials about living subjects, advocating honest 
democratic politics, industrial education, material development, money 
making and hearty living." 

In addition to coverage of the legislature and state politics, the 
Chronicle regularly featured articles about North Carolina businesses and 
factories. The paper's editorial page frequently included calls for an 
industrial exposition in Raleigh. Page also sought to stir up readers with 
humorous articles about such topics as the best way to cook a rabbit and 
the evils of the frying pan. He cited the use of the latter as the root of many 
of the South's problems. 

With hopes of building a statewide readership, Page worked tirelessly to 
turn out an issue of the State Chronicle each week. And he did so almost 
singlehandedly. With the exception of a few correspondents who filed 
occasional pieces from around the state, Page was the paper's sole writer. 
The Chronicle's only other regular employees were its three -person printing 
staff. 

Despite the hard work of Page and his staff, the paper never attracted 
the large readership it needed to survive. And after a little more than a year, 
Page decided to sell the paper to one of its young correspondents. Jonathan 
Daniels, a 22-year-old Wilson native, took over the Chronicle'm February 
1885. In later years Daniels would rise to prominence as publisher of the 
Raleigh News and Observer. 

Although the State Chronicle never proved the statewide mouthpiece 
that Page had envisioned, the newspaper did rack up a few notable 
achievements under its founding editor. The Chronicle was the first paper 
in the state to abandon the use of we in its editorials, instead referring to 
the publication in the third person. Page also demanded that the newspaper 
capitalize the word Negro, a practice rarely found beyond the pages of a 
select few Northeastern publications and one designed to note a generally 
friendly attitude toward Blacks in editorial stance. Finally, the Chronicle 
distinguished itself with its efforts to develop a readership across the state. 



40 



The strategy had been tried by only a few large metropolitan dailies. And 
there were few of those in the South. 

Beyond the pages of the Chronicle, Page left his mark on North 
Carolina through his instrumental role in establishing the Watauga Club, a 
group of 24 young, professional, white men who met regularly in Raleigh 
to discuss ways to raise educational and economic standards in North 
Carolina. The organization was the primary force behind the push for a 
school in Raleigh offering instruction "in wood-work, mining, metallurgy, 
practical agriculture and in such other branches of industrial education as 
may be deemed expedient." The club's efforts would ultimately bear fruit in 
1887 with the state legislature's establishment of the North Carolina 
College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, the predecessor of today's North 
Carolina State University. 

The creation of the new college, though, did not come without a fight. 
And Page jumped into the fray from New York City, where he had moved 
shortly after selling the Chronicle to Daniels. As he churned out freelance 
articles for a variety of Northeastern publications, Page continued to follow 
happenings in his home state. From summer 1885 until fall 1886, he wrote 
letters almost weekly for publication in the State Chronicle. Many featured 
criticism of North Carolina politicians and preachers and decried the 
ignorance and prejudice Page saw in the state. 

Angered by opposition to the Watauga Club's proposal for a state 
industrial school, Page penned a February 1, 1886, letter labeling critics of 
the idea Mummies. "The world must have some corner in it where men can 
sleep and dream and dream," he writes, "And North Carolina is as good a 
spot for that as any." Then, sounding a familiar refrain, Page points out 
that "the most active and useful and energetic men born in North 
Carolina" — great writers, statesmen or scientists — no longer call the state 
home. "Why?" he asks. "The Mummies! That's why." Page avoids naming 
the Mummies, but he doesn't shy away from describing them: 

Count on your fingers the five men who fill the highest places or 
have the greatest influence on education in North Carolina. Not one 
of them is a scholar! Count the five most influential editors in the 
State. Not one of them could earn in the great centers of journalism 
$10 a week as a reporter. .. .The misfortune is, nobody questions 
their right.... Are we to sit down quietly forever and allow every 
enterprise that means growth, every idea that means intellectual 
freedom to perish, and the State to lag behind always, because a few 
Mummies will be offended? It would be cheaper to pension them all, 
than longer listen to them. 

Page's February 1 letter was merely the opening salvo in his attack on 
North Carolina's leadership. In the ensuing weeks he wrote several others. 
And, not surprisingly, his epistles sparked reaction. The State Chronicle 



41 



happily printed Page's letters, but its editors disavowed his views. 
Consequently they were all too eager to print letters and columns criticizing 
the journalist. Several of the state's newspapers also attacked Page. The 
Chatham Record suggested that "if such men as [Senator Zebulon B.] 
Vance, [Senator Matt W.] Ransom, [Governor Albert M.] Scales and other 
leading men of North Carolina are 'mummies' and Mr. Page is a LIVE 
man, then please give us more 'Mummies.'" 

But Page found a defender in a young Goldsboro lawyer. In a letter to 
the journalist, Charles B. Aycock, later to earn a reputation as North 
Carolina's "education governor", wrote that "fully three fourths of the 
people are with you," and "I wish heartily that you and Joe Daniels had a 
round V2 million and were running a daily in Raleigh, it would be worth 
more to North Carolina than all the living and dead 'Mummies' have been 
in a quarter of a century." 

Page's "Mummy Letters" may have finally gotten the writer the 
statewide attention he sought while running the State Chronicle. But his 
epistles from New York provided no income. Consequently Page continued 
to look for a full-time job. He signed on with the New York Evening Post 
in winter 1887. But when the opportunity to join the staff of a two-year-old 
magazine came his way six months later, he gladly took it. 

Page signed on as business manager with the Forum, a monthly 
publication of news and opinion. But four years later, in 1891, the 
magazine's owners realized that the Tar Heel was better suited for editorial 
work. They named him editor and gave him stock in the company. 

Page represented a new type of magazine editor. His predecessors had 
filled their publications each month with submitted manuscripts and 
reprints of articles clipped from foreign publications. But Page looked to 
current political, literary, social and scientific discussions to shape the 
monthly content of the Forum. He wrote detailed letters to authors 
describing the articles he wished them to produce. Stories often touched on 
education, urban problems, and business. Articles on the South also often 
found their way into the Forum. The rise of lynching in the 1890s, for 
instance, prompted several stories. 

When relations between Page and the Forum owners soured in summer 
1895, the Tar Heel moved to Boston to join the staff of The Atlantic 
Monthly. Within three years he had become editor of the magazine, one of 
the most respected in the country. As such, Page was in demand as a public 
speaker. Not surprisingly he used his addresses to champion some of the 
same causes that he advocated in print. 

Improvement in public education proved the central theme of "The 
Forgotten Man," a speech delivered at the State Normal and Industrial 
College in Greensboro (today's UNC-Greensboro) in 1897 and often 
considered Page's most famous address. Page spoke of North Carolina's 
"forgotten and neglected" men and women, the "common people" who 
make up the "foundation" of society. He praised them as North Carolina's 



42 



greatest "undeveloped resource" and decried their illiteracy. Page recalled 
the state's earlier systems of education, which catered mostly to the ruling 
class or those well-connected to the church. And then he talked of the 
promise represented by the movement for tax-supported, public schools. "A 
public school system generously supported by public sentiment, and 
generously maintained by both State and local taxation, " he said, "is the 
only effective means to develop the forgotten man, and even more surely 
the only means to develop the forgotten woman." Page closed his speech 
with great optimism. "Great changes come as silently as the seasons," he 
opined. "I am no more sure of this spring time than I am of the 
rejuvenation of our society and the lifting up of our life.... The neglected 
people will rise and with them will rise all the people." 

Page's outspokenness on educational issues eventually landed him on 
the Southern Education Board. The organization's members, all white, 
included Southern educational leaders, Southern expatriates and Northern 
philanthropists. The group focused on improving education for rural 
Southerners and for African-Americans. In the early 20th century the board 
and its offshoots financed public school campaigns in several former 
Confederate states. For his part, Page proved less a financial backer of the 
board than a spokesman for it, traveling the country giving speeches and 
publishing articles about education reform. 

In the winter of 1899 Page's speechmaking took him on a six-week trip 
through the South and, as he had done in 1881, he used the tour to record 
observations of his native region. He planned to write an article for the 
Atlantic upon his return to Boston. But before completing the article, Page 
resigned as editor of The Atlantic and returned New York to work with 
publishing magnate Samuel S. McClure. 

Several factors motivated Page's departure from Boston in summer 
1899. The editor was eager to add publisher to his title and he was tired 
from overwork and a string of illnesses. More importantly, perhaps, 
McClure offered Page an enticing financial package — a salary of $15,000 a 
year, $50,000 in stock and generous royalties on a set of encyclopedias he 
hoped his new employee would edit. 

But Page's high hopes gave way to reality in fall 1899. McClure failed 
to own up to his promise of a magazine editorship for Page. And the 
editor's dream of a significant role in a publishing empire was shattered 
when McClure's attempted takeover of Harper & Brothers, the nation's 
largest publishing house, fell through. 

Page didn't wait long to jump ship. In December 1899, he and Frank 
S. Doubleday, a publisher and one-time partner of McClure, launched 
Doubleday, Page and Company. The new venture was to include both 
book and magazine publishing. But the two partners agreed that they 
would focus first on expanding their stable of authors. Doubleday signed up 
Rudyard Kipling and Booth Tarkington while Page lured Mar)' Wilkins and 
fellow Southerner Ellen Glasgow from other publishing houses. The Tar 



43 



Heel publisher also contracted with another Southerner for a book that had 
yet to be written. Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery proved a best- 
seller for the publishing house in its second year of operation. By then the 
company had already seen top sellers from Glasgow, Tarkington, and 
several others. 

In time Page signed up several other Southern writers, including Joel 
Chandler Harris and James Branch Cabell. Page also published a series of 
racist historical novels from fellow Watauga Club member Thomas Dixon. 
In such works as The Leopard's Spots and The Clansman, Dixon preached 
a strong message of African- American racial inferiority. Although Dixon's 
novels sold well, Page would later express some regret for having published 
them. 

As planned, after about a year of focusing exclusively on book 
publishing, Page turned his attention toward starting Doubleday, Page & 
Company's first magazine. With the Tar Heel as editor, the premier issue of 
World's Work rolled off the presses in November 1900. Its publication, 
Cooper suggests, heralded the birth of the 20th century newsmagazine. 
Rather than illustrations, which had provided the pictorial accompaniment 
for text in centuries past, World's Work included photographs. The 
magazine also leaned heavily toward coverage of current issues in politics, 
science and the arts — hardly a surprise with Page at the top of the 
masthead. World's Work did not include fiction, a departure from the 
formula for general interest magazines in the past. But it did include 
commentary. The first 20 or 30 pages of each issue were devoted to "The 
March of Events," a section in which Page offered his opinions on the issues 
of the day. 

Despite editing a monthly magazine and running a publishing house, 
Page still found time to work on longer-term writing projects. The 
observations he recorded during his Southern speechmaking tour in 1899 
eventually made their way into print as "The Rebuilding of Old 
Commonwealths." The essay appeared in both magazine and book form in 
May 1902. Page's former employer, The Atlantic Monthly, finally got its 
long-promised article. And his current employer, Doubleday, Page & 
Company, finally had the chance to publish a book by its highly acclaimed 
editor and publisher. The book, titled The Rebuilding of Old 
Commonwealths: Being Essays Toward "s the Training of the Forgotten 
Man in the Southern States, also included "The Forgotten Man" and 
another highly regarded Page speech. 

In "The Rebuilding of Old Commonwealths," Page renewed some of 
the arguments he had made in "Study of an Old Southern Borough." He 
even began the article by revisiting the unnamed town he described in his 
first piece for the Atlantic 21 years earlier. But Page's 1902 essay was not as 
pessimistic as the one he had published in 1881. He noted signs of progress 
in the South. And he credited education, particularly industrial education, 



44 



for the advancement. "Training to economic independence is the only true 
emancipation," he wrote. 

Although the message of The Rebuilding of Old Commonwealths \s 
now long outdated, the volume remains notable today as the only book 
Page ever published under his own name. A Publisher's Confession, a 
compilation of letters that Page wrote about his trade to a Boston 
newspaper, was published anonymously in 1905. And The Southerner, 
Page's only novel, appeared on Doubleday, Page's fall list for 1909 as an 
autobiography penned by Nicholas Worth. Despite the pseudonym, many 
at the time knew that Page was the author and his veiled portrayals of family 
members and Southern politicians did not earn him points with either 
group. 

The Southerner did not generate large sales for Doubleday, Page. Nor 
did the novel receive high praise from critics. One of the most critical 
reviews appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer. University of North 
Carolina history professor J.G. de Roulhac Hamilton suggested that The 
Southerner was a "fairy tale" with a "holier than thou" attitude. He wrote 
that the novel "drags along, interrupted at intervals by soliloquizing and 
much philosophizing, most of it based on false premises." 

As he continued to write, edit and publish, Page also took on a greater 
role in public affairs. The Tar Heel remained a strong voice for educational 
improvement in the South, primarily through his work with the Southern 
Education Board and its offshoot the General Education Board. But he also 
began devoting time to a second cause, rural advancement. In 1908 
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Page to the Commission on 
Country Life, a group seeking to understand factors slowing growth in the 
countryside and to suggest ways to better the lives of farmers. Commission 
members traveled the country with experts to study the issues. During one 
such trip through North Carolina, Page became aware of the effects 
hookworms were having on his fellow Tar Heels. The incident sparked the 
editor to add the eradication of the parasitic disease to his growing portfolio 
of causes. With Page's persuasion, the Rockefeller Commission for the 
Extermination of the Hookworm Disease began work in 1909. Page served 
as a director in the organization and helped manage an endowment of one 
million dollars. 

Page's life in public affairs likely reached its pinnacle in 1913 when his 
friend Woodrow Wilson, as President, named him Ambassador to Great 
Britain. The Tar Heel used his post to promote strengthened relations 
between Britain and the U.S., much as he had done for sectional 
reconciliation in the U.S. decades earlier. At the outbreak of World War I in 
1914, Page pushed for U.S. neutrality. But gradually the ambassador 
moved toward advocating American involvement with the Allied cause. His 
stance led the Wilson administration to sideline him in important 
negotiations. When the U.S. did eventually enter the war in 1917, Page 
worked tirelessly to keep relations smooth between the Allies. But his efforts 



45 



were short-lived. Hypertension took a toll on the ambassador's health and 
in fall 1918 he returned to the U.S., barely surviving the ship journey 
home. Page died in Pinehurst on Dec. 21, 1918. He was survived by his 
wife, Alice, three sons and a daughter. 

During his 63-year life Walter Hines Page distinguished himself as a 
writer, editor, publisher, social reformer and diplomat. His efforts to 
improve Anglo-American relations are remembered today with a plaque at 
London's Westminster Abbey describing him as "The Friend of Britain in 
Her Sorest Need." His advocacy on behalf of public education is noted with 
Walter Hines Page High School in Greensboro, the city where he made his 
most famous call for tax-supported schools. Today the North Carolina 
Literary Hall of Fame honors Walter Hines Page for his contributions to the 
written word and, just as importantly, for his devotion to his native state. 
The lad may have left home to find fame 

(and some fortune). But for Walter Hines Page, North Carolina and the 
South was always where his heart lay. 



"The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page" 

Doubleday, Page 8c Company, 1922 
Chapter I: A Reconstruction Boyhood 

The earliest recollections of any man have great biographical interest, and 
this is especially the case with Walter Page, for not the least dramatic aspect 
of his life was that it spanned the two greatest wars in history?. His last weeks 
in England (as Ambassador )Page spent at Sandwich, on the coast of Kent; 
every day and every night he could hear the pounding of the great guns in 
France, as the Germans were making their last desperate attempt to reach 
Paris or the Channel ports. His memories of his childhood days in America 
were similarly the sights and sounds of war. Page was a North Carolina 
boy; he has himself recorded the impression that the Civil War left upon his 
mind. 

-Burton J. Hendrick 

u One day," he writes, "when the cotton fields were white and the elm 
leaves were falling, in the soft autumn of the Southern climate wherein the 
sky is fathomlessly clear, the locomotive's whistle blew a much longer time 
than usual as the train approached Millworth. It did not stop at so small a 
station except when there was somebody to get off or to get on, and so 
long a blast meant that someone was coming. Sam and I ran down the 
avenue of elms to see who it was. Sam was my Negro companion, 
philosopher, and friend. I was ten years old and Sam said that he was 



46 



fourteen. There was constant talk about the war. Many men of the 
neighborhood had gone away somewhere - that was certain; but Sam and I 
had a theory that the war was only a story. We had been fooled about old 
granny Thomas's bringing the baby and long ago we have been fooled also 
about Santa Claus. The war might be another such invention, and we 
sometimes suspected that it was. But we found out the truth that day, and 
for this reason it is among my clearest early recollections. 

"For, when the train stopped, they put off a big box and gently laid it 
in the shade of the fence. The only man at the station was the man who 
had come to change the mail bags; and he said that this was Billy Morris's 
coffin and that he had been killed in a battle. He asked us to stay with it till 
he could send word to Mr. Morris, who lived two miles away. The man 
came back presently and learned against the fence till old Mr. Morris 
arrived, an hour or more later. The lint of cotton was on his wagon, for he 
was hauling this crop to the gin when the sad news reached him; and he 
cam in his shirt sleeves, his wife on the wagon seat with him. 

"All the neighborhood gathered at the church, a funeral was preached 
and there was along prayer for our success against the invaders, and Billy 
Morris was buried. I remember that I wept the more because it now 
seemed to me that my doubt about the war had somehow done Billy Morris 
an injustice. Old Mrs. Gregory wept more loudly than anybody else; and 
she kept saying, while the service was going on, 'It'll be my John next.' In 
a little while, sure enough, John Gregory's coffin was put off the train, as 
Billy Morris's had been, and I regarded her as a woman gifted with 
prophecy. Other coffins, too, were put off the from time to time. About 
the war there could no longer be a doubt. And, a little later, its realities and 
horrors came nearer home to us with swift, deep experiences. 

"One day my father took me to the camp and parade ground ten miles 
away, near the capital. The General and the Governor sat on horses and the 
soldiers marched by them and the band played. They were going to the 
front. There surely must be a war at the front, I told Sam that night. Still 
more coffins were brought home, too, as the months and the years passed; 
and the women of the neighborhood used to come and spend whole days 
with my mother, sewing for the soldiers. So precious became woolen cloth 
that every rag was saved and the threads were unraveled to be spun and 
woven into new fabrics. And they baked bread and roasted chickens and 
sheep and pigs and made cakes, all to go to the soldiers at the front." 
From. The Southerner, Chapter I. (The first chapter in this novel is 
practically autobiographical, though fictitious names have been used.) 



47 



Walter Hines Page Bibliography 



A Publisher's Confession. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1905. 

The Rebuilding of Old Commonwealths: Being Essays Towards the Training of 
the Forgotten Man in the Southern States. New York: Doubleday, Page, 
1902. Republished as The School that Built a Town. New York: Harper, 
1952. 

The Southerner: A Novel: Being the autobiography of Nicholas Worth. New 
York: Doubleday, Page, 1909. 

Additional information on Mr. Page and his work can be found at 
www . nc writers . org and in: 

Alderman, Edwin Anderson. Memorial Meeting, Walter Hines Page: Held at 

the Brick Presbyterian Church, Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Seventh Street, New 
York, on April the Twenty-Fifth, 1919. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 
Page, 1920. 

Cooper, John Milton. Walter Hines Page: The Southerner as American, 1855- 

1918. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977. 
Gregory, Ross. Walter Hines Page: Ambassador to die Court of St. James 's. 

Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970. 
Griffin, Keith Howard. "A Rhetorical Biography of Walter Hines Page with 

Reference to His Ceremonial Speaking on Southern Education, 1891-1913." 

PhD Disseration. Louisiana State University, 1977. 
Hendrick, Burton Jesse. The Life and Letters of Walter Hines Page. 3 vols. 

Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1926. 
. The Training of an American: The Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H. 

Page, 1855-1913. Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1928. 

Hitchcock, Bert. "Walter Hines Page." American Magazine Journalists, 

1900-1960 First Series, ed. Sam G. Riley. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1990. 254-263. 
Hobson, Fred. "A Page of Virginia and a Page from Lubberland," in his Tell 

About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain. Baton Rouge: Louisiana 

State University Press, 1983. 129-179. 
Massa, Ann. "Walter Hines Page." American Literary Critics and Scholars, 

1880-1900. Ed. Monica M. Grecu and John W. Rathbun. Detroit, MI: Gale, 

1988. 180-186. 

Okuda, Akiyo Ito. "Literary Re-constructionists: The Makers and Makings of 
Charles Chesnutt's 'The Marrow of Tradition,' Thomas Dixon's 'The 
Leopard's Spots,' and Walter Hines Page's 'The Southerner.' " PhD 
Dissertation. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2005. 

Parks, Edd Winfield, "Walter Hines Page and the South," in his Segments of 
Southern Thought. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1938. 273-289. 

Rostar, James T. "Walter Hines Page: Editor, Publisher, and Enlightened 
Reformer." North Carolina Literary Review 2.1 (1994): 102-7. 



48 



Riisnak, Robert J. Waiter Hines Page and the World's Work, 1900-1913. 

Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1982. 
Sedgwick, Ellery. "Walter Hines Page at the Atlantic Monthly." Hansard Library 

Bulletin 35.4 (1987): 427-49. 
Sellers, Charles Grier, Jr. "Walter Hines Page and the Spirit of the New South." 

The North Carolina Historical Review 29 A (October 1952): 481-499. 
Shaw, Albert. "Walter Hines Page — Memorial Address." The North Carolina 

Historical Review 1 . 1 (January 1924). 3-25. 
Weaver, Frederick Henry. "Walter H. Page and the Progressive Mood." PhD 

Dissertation. Duke University, 1968. 



49 



50 



Samm-Art Williams 
b. 1946 

"Samm-Art Williams" 
by Trudier Harris 

from Afro-American Writers Alter 1955: 
Dramatists and Prose Writers. Eds. Thadious 
M. Davis and Trudier Harris, 1985. 

In 1978, at the age of thirty-two, Samm- 
Art Williams completed Home, a drama 
which depicts the journey of a young black 
man from rural Cross Roads, North Carolina, to the North and back, and 
which espouses a love of the land, folksy philosophies, and a universal 
longing for Home. The play was produced in 1979, won several awards, 
and was generally greeted with enthusiasm by a wide-ranging audience. It 
ran for ten months on Broadway and catapulted Williams to a national 
reputation . . . Production of Home made Williams the hottest young 
black playwright in America. He was automatically made the official 
spokesman for young black playwrights, and, with public attention focused 
on him, he was expected to top or equal his success with Home. This public 
acclaim was the culmination of years of hard work. 

Samuel Arthur Williams was born and raised in Burgaw, North 
Carolina, which serves as the model for Cross Roads in Home. This 
community of 1,700 is about thirty-five miles southwest of Jacksonville and 
twenty-five miles northwest of Wilmington. When Williams was growing 
up there, it resembled many small-town environments in the South which 
were made up primarily of families, extended families, and neighbors who 
were treated as a part of the family. Valdosia and Samuel Williams, Samm's 
parents, separated when the child was four, and he was nurtured and reared 
by his mother, grandfather, uncle, "and everybody else" because his 
mother's side of the family lived nearby. An uncle lived next door; the 
grandfather was three doors away; and an aunt lived next door to the 
grandfather. Lots of cousins were "around all the time." 

The rural community of Burgaw clearly defined a role for its young 
people. They were to go to school at home, away to college if they could, 
and make something of themselves. Samm managed the first two 
requirements by attending Burgaw Elementary School, C. F. Pope High 
School, and Morgan State College in Baltimore. Making something of 
himself was another story; his desire to be a playwright did not fall into the 
realm of tangible success with which his family and neighbors could 
conspicuously identify. His early recognition that his goals were different 
caused him to keep his writing desires a secret. A more acceptable path 




51 



would have been for him to play football or basketball; everybody wanted 
him to be an athlete. His 6'6" size demanded that, his neighbors 
maintained. Although Samm did not hate athletics, he did not like to 
compete. He did not find it "fun." An early attempt at basketball made 
him an embarrassing legend at his own school: he scored a basket for the 
opposing team. 

. . . From as early as the ninth grade, though, Williams knew he wanted 
to be a writer. His mother apparently sensed the unusual talent in her son 
and encouraged it as best she could. Valdosia Williams was an English 
teacher at C. F. Pope High School and was also in charge of the drama 
department. . . . She had a combination of talents and competencies which 
her son undoubtedly found inspiring. He calls her his "first real influence 
in terms of drama." She guided his reading, of which drama was the largest 
part, from his budding ninth-grade interest throughout his high school 
years. She bought a Shakespeare library and recordings of the plays for 
Samm, so he could "listen to the albums and read the scripts." By the time 
he was in the twelfth grade, he was familiar with most of Shakespeare's 
plays. Mrs. Williams also guided her son's reading in works by the black 
writers he most appreciates today; Langston Hughes and James Weldon 
Johnson are two of his favorites. Most important, Mrs. Williams provided 
opportunities for her son to act in plays she directed, experience which 
would serve him in good stead later in Philadelphia and in New York. 

Williams's Morgan State memories are dominated by a flood of athletics 
and a drought of exposure to the arts. In the mid-1960s, football, track, 
and other sports captured money and attention at Morgan State. There was. 
no drama department, and only two creative writing courses, both of which 
Williams took, were offered in the English department. Williams majored 
in political science and minored in psychology, slight gestures perhaps to his 
grandfather's desire that he become a lawyer. Because civil-rights activities 
had opened doors to black students, the atmosphere was tense with the 
pressure to achieve; students were pushed to become doctors and lawyers. 
Writing was considered a frivolous activity. 

Williams continued to write during his college years, but "couldn't find 
anybody to really take it seriously." He wrote poetry at this stage and 
recalls that acquaintances thought that was "the funniest thing in the 
world," because he had a reputation for being kind of "wild and woolly." 
The comic incongruity of an athletic-looking young man like Williams 
writing poetry was not lost on his fellow students. And the lack of drama 
and playwriting courses did not advance his plans to become a playwright. 

Upon graduation from Morgan State, he moved to Philadelphia, where 
he would get his first exposure to organized theater groups and had his first 
opportunity to work with professionals in the theater. In Philadelphia in 
1968, Williams joined the Freedom Theater, a neighborhood theater group 
headed by John Allen and Bob Lesley. These men had pooled resources to 



52 



give acting workshops and succeeded in getting drama instructors from 
Temple University to work with them. Williams participated in the 
workshop productions and "secretly" wrote poetiy. The poetry writing 
experience would later be helpful in the composition of Home . . . and a 
1977 musical, The Last Caravan, but the acting experience served as his 
immediate entry to New York. It was not until after his arrival in New York 
in 1973 that Williams found an environment which at least provided 
spiritual support for his desire to become a writer. 

The move from Philadelphia to New York came about in part as the 
result of the end of Williams's marriage. He packed his clothes in his van 
and drove to New York in what would be his home for the next three 
nights. He quickly met other struggling, budding writers and actors and 
moved from his van to a brownstone in Brooklyn, which he and five others 
rented for $380 a month. He worked in gasoline stations and tended bar 
until he got a role in a commercial for Fortified Oat Flakes in November 
1973. This little break set the pattern for the next few years. Williams says, 
"I actually came to New York with the intention of becoming a writer, but 
I knew that I would have to do some acting to pay the rent." In December 
1973 Williams played in Ken Eulo's Black Jesus, his first part in a play in 
New York. 

Still, things did not move quickly. He was rejected after his first 
audition to join the Negro Ensemble Company in February 1974, but the 
occasion was nevertheless an important one because he met Douglas Turner 
Ward. Later in 1974, Ward hired Williams to act in a production in the 
"Season Within A Season" sponsored by the playwright's workshop. 
Williams had worked on two or three plays to this point, but nothing had 
taken definite form. He finally finished Welcome to Black River in 1974, 
and it was produced in the playwright's workshop of the Negro Ensemble 
Company in 1975. 

Welcome to Black River, one of Williams's favorite plays, deals with the 
rural community he would return to four years later in Home. Between the 
two plays, Williams wrote eight others, several of which were produced by 
the Negro Ensemble Company or by Williams himself. The plays . . . vary 
in themes and quality, and they came rapidly after 1974. They are 
"Sometime From Now," A Love Play, The Coming and Do Unto Others, 
"Break of Day Arising", Brass Birds Don't Sing, "The Pathetique" (written 
in 1977, produced as The Sixteenth Round'm 1980), and The Last 
Caravan. 

Of the plays, the most ambitious is Brass Birds Don 't Sing. It depicts 
sisters who were rescued from a Lebensborn breeding camp in Poland 
during World War II by an American soldier. Their adoption and 
immigration to the United States did not save them from persecution. . . . 
The play is about victims - victims of physical violence and victims of 
ideological violence. No one cares that Donia and Freida, now in their 



53 



thirties, were forced to breed for the Nazis; they are still tainted with the 
stench of prostitution. No one knows that the two women, Jews who were 
raised as Catholics and ironically selected for breeding purposes, were 
rejected even by the Germans when their girlish blond hair turned dark with 
age. The neighbors, true patriots all, know only that there is a sinister, 
alien, Nazi-connected pollution in their midst; it must be eradicated. 

. . . The Last Caravan is a delightful musical that depicts the effects of 
aging on masculinity. Abraham, who discovers at sixty-five that he no 
longer has "lead in his pencil," seeks a remedy. He gets an elixir from a 
hoodoo woman, and it restores his vitality even though it is only composed 
of fruit juices. If one has hope to forestall Mother Nature, sings Abe, that is 
magic enough. 

. . . The Sixteenth Round is a. sentimental portrayal of an aging, battle- 
scarred boxer whose physical and mental deterioration make his dream of 
returning to the ring a pathetic wish. Jesse has imprisoned himself in the 
apartment of his girlfriend Marsh to wait for the executioner who will kill 
him for having thrown a fight. Lemar, the executioner, arrives and finds 
out that Jesse will soon be dead whether he kills him or not. The play is a 
series of conversations punctuated by the playing of Tchaikovsky's 
Pathetique and Jesse's cries in response to the pain in his head. The 
suspense of the buildup to the expected execution is lessened by the silly 
but brutal tricks Lemar plays on the couple. Williams chose the dissolution 
of dramatic effect instead of violence, commenting, "Now, I think that that 
play when it was produced would have been more successful had he just 
blown the guy's brains out. ... everybody's sitting there; it builds up to the 
fact that this man should kill this man and you expect it. Instead of him 
doing that, I take it the other way because I don't think that he should 
have. ... I just see redeeming qualities in people." 

Seeing redeeming qualities in people is a part of Williams's philosophy. 
He chooses themes based on "human interests," on the premise that man is 
innately good but for the negative impact of his environment. That 
approach guides Brass Birds Don 't Sing and the other plays. Issues, 
Williams believes, are not to be dealt with unless they emanate from human 
beings living through them or trying to come to grips with them. The 
individual should be on center stage, not the issue. His strong reaction to 
issues dominating human beings originates in part in his response to black 
playwrights of the 1960s who, he believes, distorted the reality of black 
existence in America. They painted the black middle class as universally 
snobbish and black militants as universally good. They alienated older 
blacks by making them feel like Uncle Toms, and Williams does not believe 
in Uncle Tom: "I don't think that Uncle Tom ever existed. I think that 
people did what they had to do to live, in order to get along. . . . Stepin 
Fetchit and Willie Best had to buck their eyes. They had to do it to work. 
Now we can sit back and say, oh my God, those guys, 1 don't even want to 



54 



see them. What else were those people going to do? You know, that was 
the closest that they could come to expressing their craft as you can get. 
And I think they were brilliant actors because I don't think they could feel 
that way deep down in their hearts. In their heart of hearts, these people 
knew that this was disgusting to them, but what else could they do? What 
else could they take? ... I don't believe in Uncle Tom. I think that 
alienated and made a lot of old people feel bad, a lot of our 60's writers, 
because they were so angry that they lost the objectivity in terms of what 
they were doing. There are a lot of people who fight very, very hard to 
become middle-class and millionaires. Now I'm not justifying what they do 
once they get there, but you must respect one thing, that if you are Black in 
this country, nothing is free. If you got it, you worked for it, and you 
deserve to have it." Williams feels the distortion will be historically 
detrimental to black people. Because black playwrights between 1959 and 
the early 1970s did not show both sides of the coin, that some militants 
were on drugs and irresponsible or that some middle -class blacks bailed 
demonstrators out of jail or that some white people did not deserve to be 
slaughtered, young black people growing up during that period could have 
incomplete images of black life in America. 

Williams centers his plays, therefore, upon human beings: "I'm more 
interested in how the human being approaches the issue instead of trying to 
write about the issue itself. . ." 

Focus on the individual human being is the essence of Home. The play 
deals with the Vietnam War, welfare, alcoholism, and drugs, but these issues 
are reflected only through the eyes of Cephus Miles, the lead character in 
the play. Home portrays Cephus's transition from teenage years to 
manhood. Southern-born and rural-bred, Cephus has few ideological 
opinions, but he knows he does not want to fight in Vietnam. After a five- 
year stint in jail for refusing to be inducted into the army, during which he 
loses the farm his grandfather has left to him, Cephus goes to u a very, very 
large American city," where he is fired from a job when his past is revealed. 
He quickly degenerates to welfare, drugs, and skid row. A letter from his 
aunt, with the news that his farm has been recovered, rescues him; he 
returns to Cross Roads, North Carolina, and the land, is reunited with his 
high-school sweetheart, and presumably lives happily ever after. He is 
secure in the knowledge that unfaltering love will be rewarded and that 
God has finally returned from vacationing in Miami. 

Only two other actors appear in the play, both of whom are women. In 
masterful changes of roles, they play characters in Cephus's life ranging 
from mischievous neighborhood children to lovers to seductresses to 
policemen to doting, aged relatives. The play was presented by the Negro 
Ensemble Company, opening at St. Marks Playhouse on 19 December 
1979. It was later transferred to the Cort Theatre with the original cast. L. 
Scott Caldwell and Michele Shay played the people in Cephus's life, and 



55 



Charles Brown played Cephus Miles. The production was a hit. Critics 
were universal in their praise for the show. Mel Gussow of the New York 
Times called Home u a freshet of good will, a celebration of the 
indomitability of man, a call to return to the earth. In all respects - writing, 
direction and performances - this is one of the happiest theatrical events of 
the season." Maintaining that the play was "seamlessly directed" and 
"acted with spontaneity and authority," Gussow concluded that it was "an 
uplifting folk ballad about the pure in heart." Douglas Watt in the Daily 
News called the play "sweet, simple, funny and endearing" and its folksy 
quality "both entertaining and inspiriting." Leo Seligsohn of Newsday 
suggested the play was "a gentle embodiment of that sense of wonder, 
evoked with poetry and sunny folk legend." He saw Cephus's voyage from 
South to North as a "watercolor, bright with humor, and highlighted by 
great shafts of tall-story folk legend. The dialogue ranges from verse and 
soliloquies to short episodes that play almost like skits." 

Several of the scenes in Home are Cephus's memories of his childhood 
years in Cross Roads. There are tales of catfish fries on the banks of the 
White Stocking River and of the children conceived at such late-night 
parties, tales of Cephus's work with his grandfather and Uncle Lewis in 
those days when things were all right with the world, and memories of his 
dog Brownie. There are also folk stories of characters like Hard- Headed 
Herbert, whose head could support the weight of a fourteen-wheel truck, 
and Ole Chief, "the colored Indian" who cons his neighbors out of money 
by pretending not to speak English. The dominant memories are of Pattie 
Mae Wells, Cephus's overly religious and proper childhood sweetheart who 
has left him to marry someone of higher social standing. The good times 
and the bright, romantic days are a contrast to the city and the lack of 
communal and spiritual support found there. Cephus gets a job and a 
beautiful woman, but he is deserted by the woman when he is fired from his 
job. Welfare will provide him with only the funds to live below a 
subsistence level, and he finds himself sweeping out barrooms for survival. 
He experiments with drugs, then becomes a wino, which ages him far 
beyond his years. Reclaiming himself from his dissolution is Cephus's 
major task in the play, and he accomplishes it with good humor and 
admirable faith. 

Home presented the archetypal movement of young blacks from the 
rural South to a mythical North, where they believe the streets will be paved 
with gold. The movement is simultaneously romantic, painful, and 
enlightening. The timelessness of the theme and the pervasiveness of the 
myth contributed to the success of the show, for which Williams received 
several awards and recognitions. On 8 July 1980, he received the 
Governors' Award from North Carolina; he received the Outer Circle 
Award for 1979-1980 - The John Gassner Playwriting Award; he was 



56 



nominated for an Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award; and on 17 November 
1980 he received the eighth annual Audelco Recognition Award. 

Williams was somewhat surprised with the success of Home because, 
contrary to usual trends, "it dealt with Southern Black people not in a 
stereotypical role and it showed socially what happens to a man. Usually, 
when we see a play about someone who's a drug addict, we only see the 
end result. We never show how the man got there, or the fact that he even 
makes an attempt to come back. So I was saying when I wrote that, now 
this is going to be too merry. But it happens every day. There are people 
on drugs, there are people who've hit the skids who are struggling to come 
back. A lot of those people don't want to be there. They find themselves 
there for whatever reason and they can't get back and that's why, I guess 
that's why it took me two years to get Home produced." When the play 
was finished in 1978, Williams took it "to every theater in New York" 
between that time and the end of 1979. Finally, Douglas Turner Ward at 
the Negro Ensemble Company gave the play a staged reading. The 
audience liked it, and Ward produced the play. A few technical changes 
were made for staging purposes, but Williams's original "vision of the 
production" was retained. 

About fifty percent of the play is autobiographical, based on characters 
and places Williams knew in Burgaw; stories and poetry reminiscent of black 
folk tradition were invented. In fact, the entire play started out as a poem 
which was intended to reflect the reverse migration of black people from 
the North to the South. The idea had come to Williams one Christmas Eve 
as he rode the bus from New York to North Carolina (he is "deathly afraid" 
of flying). He observed people going home "pretending" they were happy 
living in the North (the usual fiction to present to relatives in the South); 
yet he knew "all of us were living just as hard up here as we could possibly 
live." His knowledge of the reality of black life in both New York and the 
South helped Williams create the verisimilitude he credits with contributing 
to the popularity of the play: "Anybody that says you can never go home 
again didn't come from the kind of place I came from; that's the only place 
you can go when there's nowhere else to go. And I think that's one of the 
reasons it had such a good audience, such a huge audience is because of 
that particular theme . . . and also because of the recognition of characters. 
People don't usually vary from one Home to another. Everybody's got an 
uncle that sits around and spins tales and tells lies and everybody knows he's 
lying, but that's uncle whoever and that's just the way he is. And you sit 
there and you listen, you know, and everybody's got somebody in their 
family they love to see drunk 'cause they the funniest thing in the world. . . 
It had a kind of flavor that would make you really want to see those people 
again." 



57 



POSTSCRIPT 

Since this essay was published, Williams has continued to write for 
theater, television, and film. His plays include Eve of the Trial, Eyes of the 
American, Friends, Last of the Line, The Montford Point Marine, and 
Woman from the Town. He has twice been nominated for an Emmy 
Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and has won the 
Morgan State University Alumni Award, the Humanitas Award, and the 
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. He 
currently serves on the board of the Paul Green Foundation and is affiliated 
with the theater department at North Carolina Central University in 
Durham. On the occasion of his induction into the North Carolina Literary 
Hall of Fame, Williams would like to offer "a special thanks to my mentor 
and playwriting instructor, Steve Carter." 



"Governor Made Me Destroy My Television" 

Woman from the Town. London: Samuel French, 1990. 
TIME: December 22-25. The Present. 
PLACE: Mason's Bridge, North Carolina. The Wilson Farm. 

ACT I, Scene 1 

SCENE: Front porch. Early morning. 

AT RISE: ROOSTER CROWS as LIGHTS come up on LA URA 
sitting on her front porch. SHE is decorating a basket with a ribbon. Laura 
lives in a large farm house that has seen better days. LA URA stands placing 
basket on rocker, pulls out a letter from pocket - from her sister Lila, looks 
up the road, crosses SL off porch to DSC. SHE sees her sister, Lila, and her 
niece Rita, walking towards the house. They just got off the bus from New 
York. They are not yet on stage. Note: In black, LA URA opens front door. 

LAURA: My sister Lila's still got nerves made out of cast iron. Walking up 
the road like the conquering hero come home. Never thought she'd do it. 
Coming home with a bastard young'n. {SHE crosses SR onto porch to SR 
porch railing and looks at the fields.) Well, they won't find a pot of gold at 
the end of this rainbow. Just buckets of my sweat out there in them fields. 
Foot tubs full of my tears when they all started leaving and ... dying out. 
(SHE crosses to SL on porch.) So don't come back here bringing me no 
sympathy cards. (SHE throws the letter on the floor SL of porch steps.) 
Dirt under my fingernails. Hands with rope marks in them ... from plowing. 
Combines taking over everything. Folks selling out. Banks taking over what 
the big combines don't want. (SHE crosses to rocker and sits.) Choking the 



58 



small farmer. Turning us into farm house dinosaurs. State Governor lies so 
bad I don't know if it come natural or he trained for it. Governor made me 
destroy my television the other night. I threw a hammer through the screen 
trying to hit him. Told us he wanted to help the ones in need. Soon as I 
heard the lie ... I killed my television. But he kept right on talking. 
{Looking SL at Lila and Rita.) I didn't pick you up from the bus station. 
That ought to tell you how bad I want you back here. (SHE stands looking 
SL.) You waited too long, Lila. It's too late. So don't bring me no 
sympathy cards. (SHE sits in rocker and picks up basket, continues 
decorating it.) We used to have so much fun at holiday time. Warmth all 
around. Our favorite time of the year. The Wilson sisters. (SHE hums 
"Silent Night, Holy Night" .) That was a long time ago. It would take you 
to mess up my Christmas. (LAURA closes her eyes and rocks.) 

ACT I, Scene 2 

Next day. Later afternoon. LIGHTS come up on LA URA in the parlor. 

SHE is dusting beginning with UC table, to UR table, to SR table. As 
SHE begins to cross SL, SHE notices Lila 's jacket and scarf on SR chair 
back. LAURA crosses to SL table begins to dust, picks up Robert's picture. 
LAURA: Damn old man, you still at us even from the grave, ain't ya. You 
something, I tell you. (Sits in UC chair.) Buddy's trailing behind Rita like 
she's Dorothy Dandridge. I wish I could love you, sister. But I spent too 
many days shelling peas, feeding hogs, chopping cotton, and plowing. 
Plowing and walking them long hot rows for so long that sometimes I 
thought I was a mule. Just me and my boy. (Replaces picture on table.) 
Lila, she's living the high life. I look at my hands sometimes and I want to 
just scream. Underneath these calluses are soft, warm hands that need to be 
held. Scars and scratches on arms that need to embrace. There's a woman 
inside these overalls. (Rises.) A woman - no, a lady, damn it!! ( Works area.) 
Working! Chopping! Plowing! Pulling! Pulling! Gee to the left mule! Haw 
to the right! Now giddy-up! Giddy-up, I say. Got to stay straight between 
the row. Dirt in my shoes. Hot sun burning and blistering skin that should 
be smooth as brown satin. Screams and screeches that should be soft blues 
notes played by my hands. Would you like to waltz, Laura? Certainly, Sir. 
(Picks up Lila 's scarf and dances a little.) My perfume? I'm glad you like it. 
Waiter, champagne for my glass. Hell, I can dream, can't I? Because there's 
a lady underneath these overalls ... a lady that I'll never find again. 



59 



Samm-Art Williams Bibliography 



"Eve of the Trial." Orchards, Orchards, Orchards : Plays. Ed. by Maria Irene 

Fornes ... [et al.]. New York, NY: Broadway Play Publishing, 1987. 
Eyes of the American. New York: Samuel French, 1986. 
Home: A Play Garden City, N.Y.: Nelson Doubleday, 1978. 
Woman from the Town. London: Samuel French, 1990. 

Additional information on Mr. Williams and his work can be found at 
www. ncwriters.org and in: 

Harris, Trudier. "Samm-Art Williams." Afro-American Writers After 1955: 

Dramatists and Prose Writers. Eds. Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris. 

Detroit, Mich.: Gale Publishing, 1985. 283-290. 
Pattillo, Laura. "Writing His Way Home: An Interview with Samm-Art 

Williams." North Carolina Literary Review \6 (2007): 15-28. 
Shandell, Jonathan. "You Can Go 'Home' Again." American Theatre 21.8 (Oct. 

2004): 125-128. 



60 



JVartA Garo///ta faem/y ffiaA 'of S/rrmc 
Program Participants 

Asabi (Stephanie Howard) is an educator, director, playwright, stage 
manager, and an Assistant Professor of Theatre at North Carolina Central 
University. Among many credits, Asabi has performed in Steal Away, Four 
Queens-No Trump, and Having Our Say. She has directed such shows as 
Sarafma, Shaking the Mess Outta Miseiy, From the Mississippi Delta, Blues 
for an Alabama Sky, and The Amen Corner. Her original works include 
Slappin ' God in the Face, Celestial Colors of the Cross, and Distorted 
Beauty: Images of African American Achievers. 

Paul Escott was born and raised near St. Louis, Missouri, attended college 
at Harvard, and came to North Carolina in 1971 to attend graduate school 
at Duke University. After 14 years at the University of North Carolina at 
Charlotte, he came in 1988 to Wake Forest University, where he is the 
Reynolds Professor of History. His latest book is The Confederacy: The 
Slaveholders 7 Failed Venture. 

Joseph M. Flora is Atlanta Professor of Southern Culture Emeritus at the 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published widely in 
the literature of the American South, the American West, and Ernest 
Hemingway. 

Jane Holding grew up in Smithfield, North Carolina, and lives now in 
Chapel Hill. She has collaborated with Allan Gurganus on many projects, 
including the stage adaptation of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells 
All. 

Shippen L. Page, the great-grandson of Walter Hines Page, is an attorney 
in private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also was the co- 
founder, president, and C.E.O. of Intervideo, Inc., a producer of 
educational videotapes for children. He has served on the boards of a 
number of civic organizations, including the UNICEF Committee of New 
England, Cambridge Youth Soccer, Putnam Camp, and Guidance Center, 
Inc., of Cambridge. 

Stephen E. Smith is the author of eight books of poetry and prose and is 
the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet's Prize, the Zoe Kincaid 
Brockman Prize for poetry, and four North Carolina Press awards. He lives 
in Southern Pines, North Carolina, and contributes columns and features to 
The Pilot And PineStraw magazine. His most recent book is A Short 
Report on the Fire at Woolworths: Selected New and Old Poems 1980- 
2010. 



61 



J/ort/is Claro/tfta ftterartj ^/la// of c7rr/?u' 
Program Participants 

Melanie R. Soles is the Assistant secretary for Policy, Strategy and 
Legislative Affairs for the Department of cultural Resources. In her role, 
Melanie serves as the Department's Chief Legislative Liaison and oversees 
policy initiatives and is a Senior Staff Advisor to the Secretary of Cultural 
Resources. Melanie also serves as the Department's Liaison to the N.C. 
Symphony and the N.C. Museum of Art. She is an experienced civic leader, 
a former entrepreneur and proponent for cultural and non-profit 
organizations, and she is the co-founder and former board chair of the 
Greensboro Children's Museum. Melanie has served on the boards of the 
Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro; Downtown Greensboro, 
Inc.; Preservation Greensboro; United Arts council of Greensboro and 
Charlotte; Weatherspoon Art Gallery; Elon University and Guilford College 
Board of Visitors and the Junior League of Greensboro. 

Ed Williams retired in 2008 after 25 years as editor of the editorial pages at 
The Charlotte Obser\ r er. During his 3 5 -year career there, he won 
numerous awards for writing and widespread recognition for innovation 
and leadership. His columns and editorials were part of Observer projects 
that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1981 and 1988. After his 
retirement, Governor Mike Easley conferred upon him the Order of 
the Long Leaf Pine, the state's highest award for service to North Carolina. 

J. Peder Zane is a writer and editor who has worked at The New York 
Times and The News 8c Obsewer of Raleigh. His work has won several 
national awards including the Distinguished Writing Award for 
Commentary from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He has 
contributed to and edited two books published by W.W. Norton, The Top 
Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books (2007) and Remarkable Reads: 34 
Writers and Their Adventures in Reading (2004) . He is writing a book 
with Professor Adrian Bejan of Duke University titled The Law of Life: The 
Scientific Principle Behind Evolution and Design in Nature. 



62 



Sponsors 

Founded in 1985, the nonprofit North Carolina Writers' Network is one of the 

largest statewide literary arts organizations in the country. The mission of die North 
Carolina Writers' Network is to connect, promote, and lead emerging writers and 
established writers through workshops, conferences, and other programs and sendees. 
The Network builds audiences for literature, advocates for die literary arts and for 
literacy, and provides information and support services for writers of all kinds and at all 
levels, www.ncwriters.org 

The North Carolina Humanities Council is a nearly 40-year-old statewide 
nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Council's 
mission is to support, through grants and public programs, vital conversations diat 
nurture the cultures and heritage of North Carolina. Based on a long-standing 
commitment to inclusiveness for every North Carolina citizen and an interdisciplinary 
approach to the humanities, the Council's work is about finding ways to make the 
humanities accessible to people who take in the world in multiple ways and in varying 
capacities, www.nchumanities.org 

Situated in die former home of acclaimed novelist James Boyd in Southern Pines, die 
Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities was incorporated in 1977 to 
provide a variety of excellent arts and humanities programs featuring: musicians, 
lectures, writers, gardening workshops, as well as special events. Proclaimed as die site 
of the Southern Literary Renaissance, Thomas Wolfe, William Faulkner, Sherwood 
Anderson, Laurence Stallings, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maxwell Perkins, John Galsworthy 
and Paul Green were frequent guests of die Boyds. Since 1979, hundreds of writers 
have stayed in die writers' quarters as part of die Writers-in-Residence program. 
www.weymouthcenter.org 

The North Carolina Center for the Book (a program of die State Library of North 
Carolina, Department of Cultural Resources) was established in 1992 as a state 
affiliate of The Center for die Book in die Library of Congress to focus public interest 
on libraries, books, reading, and the literary and cultural heritage of the state. The 
Center develops and coordinates a wide range of book and documentary film 
discussion programs for out-of-school adults. Programs are led by college professors 
and are hosted locally by public libraries and tiieir community partners, expanding the 
library's role as a community cultural center. 
\vww.stateUbraty.dcr.state.nc.iis/ld/nccftb/cftb.htm 

The North Carolina Collection, located in die Louis Round Wilson Special 
Collections Library at die University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the largest 
and most comprehensive collection of published materials related to a single state. 
With more than 300,000 books, pamphlets, maps, government documents, and 
periodicals, it supports in-depdi research into die rich history, literature, and culture of 
North Carolina. Holdings also include 1 .3 million photographs, 50,000 microforms, 
and 15,000 collectibles and artifacts. Its Gallery offers rotating exhibitions, plus 
permanent historic period rooms related to Sir Walter Raleigh, colonial North 
Carolina, and the antebellum Hayes Plantation "gentieman's library." 
www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ 



63 



The Pilot 




is proud to support the North 
Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. 



The history of The Pilot and that 
of the North Carolina Literary Hall 
of Fame are inextricably bound. 



❖ 



James Boyd, novelist and publisher of The Pilot, was among the original 
inductees when the Literary Hall of Fame was established in 1996. He and his 
wife Katharine, who continued as publisher of The Pilot after his death, were 
owners of Weymouth, where they established a great literary tradition. 

The late Sam Ragan, editor and publisher of The Pilot from 
1 968 A 996, was instrumental in bringing the Literary Hall of Fame to 
Weymouth and Southern Pines. He was inducted into the 
Literary Hall of Fame in 1997. 

145 W. Pennsylvania | Southern Pines, NC | 910692^7271 



64 



NORT 




■ 



25th ANNUAL 

Fall Conference 

Friday - Sunday, November 5-7 

Omni Hotel Charlotte, NC 

Workshops in 

Fiction Creative Nonfiction Poetry Publishing 



Manuscript Mart with Agents and Editors 



Literary Walking Tour of Uptown Charlotte 



Saturday Banquet 
with N.C. Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers 



Keynote Address by 
Michael Malone 

Register online at www.ricwriters.org 
or call (336) 293-8844 for more information. 




WRITERS' NETWORK 

Bringing Writers Together from Across the Writingest State 

65 



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